10 Skills of Design Thinking

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in Design Thinking Tips | 0 comments

What is Design Thinking?  This talk by Tim Brown in Oxford dated July 2009 (from the non-profit organisation dedicated to the dissemination of “Ideas worth Spreading”, TED)  is a good introduction to what Design Thinking is.

In essence, Design Thinking is an ability that you can acquire as an individual or an organisation to solve a problem or problems for users (of your products and/or services) in a holistic manner that is effective, efficient and intuitive for them!

At the heart of this ability are the following fundamental and foundational skills during the three different stages (Tim Brown used the term “space”) of your product and/or service cycle:


(This is the stage during which you either examine existing products and services for possible improvements and/or prepare for the creation of new products and services)

1) empathy: to experience your products and/or services as a user and feel what your users feel and make use of these feelings to critically examine/re-examine your products and services ;

2) observation: to understand the behaviours of different group of users and make use of these understandings to critically examine/re-examine your products and services;

3) insights: to appreciate market and technology trends and to make use of this appreciation to critically examine/re-examine your products and services.


(This is the stage during which you generate ideas for your products and services)

4) eliminate self-censorship: to be uninhibited by cultural restraints and to freely share as many ideas as possible without self-censorship;

5) promote an idea-friendly ideation space: to allow others (other individuals, groups and/or organisations) to freely share as many ideas as possible without immediate critiques and/or criticisms;

6) challenge existing assumptions: to challenge current and existing assumptions and existing procedures, processes and principles;

7) prototype: to try out immediately and in increasing degrees of sophistication (starting from the most primitive) your ideas through models and/or role-play.

Note: skill 7) continues to be relevant during the implementation phase of the product and service cycle.


(This is the stage during which you prepare as well as roll-out your products and services)

7) prototype: to continue to try out your ideas through models, role-plays and pilot schemes;

8) reduce costs: to consistently find the simplest and most cost effective manner to execute your productions and/or services;

9) remove obstacles: to diligently identify and remove each and every obstacle and hurdle obstructing and preventing the smooth execution of your productions and/or services;

10) automate: to make use of technology (such as IT or ICT technology) to automate where possible the execution or parts of the execution of your productions and/or services.

How can we acquire the 10 skills of Design Thinking? Skills are developed through taking consistent actions.  A golfer or a tennis player who wants to acquire a particular shot will have to make that shot many many times during practice before it becomes second nature.  Before he or she can take that first action, he or she will first have to “act it out” in his/her mind. This thought will have to be preceded by the question “when and how do I make this shot?”.  The golfer may have to survey the terrain, sense the wind direction and strength etc., the tennis player may have to assess the angle and speed at which the ball is coming at him, the position and movement of his opponent etc.  Hence, all skills begin with asking the right questions.

The Beanstalk Creative ™ Design Thinking Tools is a set of 30 cards that provides you with 30 questions you can ask yourself during the Design Thinking journey to help you develop these 10 Skills of Design Thinking.

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