The Future of Design Thinking

Nora Guerrera
3 min readFeb 16, 2024

Moving Beyond Magic to Long-Term Relevance

Design Thinking as a practice has long been touted as a magic process in which you can rapidly create a solution with a diverse set of stakeholders.

There are inputs (insights, analogous, interviews, market research), you go crazy with post-it notes, “flaring” before you “focus” (if one is utilizing the ‘design thinking double diamond,’), and then you create and test solutions.

IDEO Design Thinking Process

There are even evolved or refined versions of the design thinking process that have grown in popularity — for example, Jake Knapp’s “Sprint” model, which runs the entire design thinking process in the span of one work-week:

Sprint Model, from The Sprint Book

In recent years, design thinking has faced criticism. Too many people treated it as magic in a bottle– if you just hired the right agency or followed the process — POOF! — you’d get an idea or solution that was based on empathy, rooted in reality(+/-) yet bigger, better, and more innovative than you could have done before.

Did it work? Sometimes. Did it fail? Sometimes.

Unsurprisingly, nothing is magic.

There’s no miracle process that can solve any problem or create billion-dollar solutions where previously there were none. Additionally, the process itself neglects key components that are vital to success in reality. Things to consider:

  • What is done before you get together to create? Are you really solving the right question? Are you pursuing the correct path?
  • Have you gathered the right inspiration? How does one make sure you have the right inspiration? How do you account for the inspiration and ideation that’s already happened by the teams closest to the problem?
  • In many cases, your teams might already have a good handle on possible solutions. Instead of forcing them to articulate it on post-its, how do you instead springboard forward to making these more actionable? Or going deeper to create new value?
  • In making ideas tangible and testing and learning, are you building and creating the right things? If it’s a visionary solution, have you tested the bridge(s) between now and then? How do you foresee a user/culture/organization getting from where they are today to the solution?
  • Storytelling is key; the challenge is often whether it’s an honest story. It might look good in a slide deck or as part of a larger pitch, but is it something people can really attach to and begin to connect their work to?
  • And most importantly, there is a massive gap at the end. What happens when you leave? What happens when the project is over? After the dust settles, after people go back to their desks and their normal routine, who’s going to support them through the transition to a new way of working, a new project or a new focus, or towards a new future? Too often, expensive, shiny presentations sit in a shared folder somewhere, never to be heard of again.

Is “Design Thinking” dead? No. Irrelevant? No.

We need to focus not just on generating or testing ideas but also on supporting our client partners as they turn ideas into action.

Learn more and join the conversation at NorthomeGroup.com

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This article originally appeared on Design Thinking for All in June 2023.

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Nora Guerrera

Strategist, Leader, Coach, Teacher. I help clients explore, create and use digital to bring game-changing experiences to their businesses and their customers.