Skip main navigation

Finding a definition

Design thinking is complex to define. Examine these definitions with us.

If you did an online search in the hope of finding a single definition of design thinking, you would end up being disappointed. Your search results will produce a number of definitions of design thinking such as:

‘Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test’ (Design thinking)[5]

‘Design thinking has a human-centered core. It encourages organisations to focus on the people they’re creating for, which leads to better products, services, and processes’ (What is design thinking?)[6]

‘Design thinking is both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving complex problems in a highly user-centric way’ (What Is Design Thinking? A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide)[7]

But what do I think?

I believe design thinking is a mindset, a set of tools and techniques that allow individuals to build their creative confidence through a process or set of steps that is not linear; one that encourages, supports and facilitates a deeper, more robust, transparent, honest and open thinking mode of operating.

This allows for the evaluation of wicked problems, current situations, historical influences, and contemporary issues. And it can influence everything from products, services, people or processes.

And it influences teams too, through collaborating, cooperating, sharing experiences, knowledge, insights, and observations. Within an organisational culture it can bring the overall goal of innovation.

Share your thoughts

What is your preferred definition of design thinking? Post your thoughts in the comments below.


5. The Interaction Design Foundation. Design thinking: What is design thinking? [webpage on the internet]. Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation; unknown date [cited 6 December 2022]. Available from:
6. IDEO U. What is design thinking? Unknown date [cited 6 December 2022]. In: [internet]. San Francisco: IDEO U. Unknown date – [about 5 screens]. Available from:,the%20human%20need%20behind%20it%3F
7. Stevens E. What is design thinking? A comprehensive beginner’s guide. 23 November 2021 [cited 6 December 2022]. In: [internet]. Berlin: CareerFoundry. 2021 – [about 20 screens]. Available from:

This article is from the free online

Create Innovative Teams with Design Thinking

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now