3 years ago

Design Thinking process: How to Build your Creativity Muscle

Design thinking is a powerful problem-solving technique adapted for business. Know all its stages and how it can impact your bar and hospitality entrepreneurship.

By Valerie Kramis, coach of Tahona Society Collective Spirit*

Too often, individuals assume that creativity and innovation are gifts that only a few possess. 

Well, the truth is that these skills are inherited from human nature, and every one of us has the capacity to be the “creative type”. 

Just remember your childhood, how you explored the world with curiosity, your capacity for imagination, and all the games you used to invent.

Creativity is a muscle

The problem is that, as we grow up, the fear of judgment makes us build armors to hide those creative skills, and suddenly we feel as if it would be impossible for us to come up with a breakthrough idea.

Despite these armors, the good news is that creativity is a muscle that can be rebuilt at any age, and innovation methodologies can help us a great deal in this endeavor.

One of the most popular innovation is the design thinking process, and in this opportunity, we will explore this approach used by entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and even nonprofits to solve the most difficult problems with innovative solutions.

What is design thinking process

According to Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, the design thinking process it’s “a way of using the designer's sensibility and methods to find ideas and solve problems”. In other words, it is thinking like a designer.  

When designers, and in particular industrial designers, start a project, they spend plenty of time studying the subject, build many prototypes, and are used to fail early and often.

So, imagine how thinking like a designer can transform the way entrepreneurs and organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategies.

One of the most important factors is that the design thinking process is a human-centered approach, which means that it places great emphasis on understanding the needs of the people we want to serve.

By focusing greatly on the desires, needs, behaviors, and culture of the final user, we can truly design something that will be successful.

In fact, to achieve innovation, you must create something that is desirable for the people, technologically feasible, and financially viable.

If you are not accomplishing the three components, your idea might be cool but still cannot be called innovation.

Stages of the design thinking process

There are five stages of the design thinking process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. 

But it is important to note that it isn’t a linear process, as you learn new insights, you’ll see that sometimes you’ll need to come back to a previous stage. 


The empathizing phase is about developing a deep understanding of the end-user and the problem we want to tackle. 

The main goal is to gain insights that serve us as inspiration for the next phases.

To achieve this objective there are different methods we can use such as secondary research, observation, immersing in the life of the users for one day, making interviews, or using tools like the empathy map and the customer journey map.


Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right solution for something not because the ideas are bad, but because we haven’t clearly articulated the question we want to address.

Design thinking process recommends you to frame one problem that you can meaningfully design towards by completing the phrase How Might We?

To create a good question, combine all your research and insights from the previous phase and observe where your users’ pain exists. 

Be careful not to make the question too broad, or too narrow. 


This phase is about brainstorming ideas. You need to allow all the ideas to flow without any judgments. 

Write down everything that comes into your mind in post-its and then group them by topics.

If you run out of ideas, you can think of how a completely different project or business would solve the problem.

For example, how would Uber tackle this problem?  Or think about futurist ideas, like how would this product look in 100 years? These exercises will help you think out of the box.


The prototype phase is probably the most important phase of the design thinking process.  

It allows you to bring your ideas to life and think about your solution in a tangible way.

After brainstorming, combine the best ones and build a rapid prototype, this means an inexpensive and scaled-down version of the product or service to reveal any problems with the current design.


Once you have built your prototype it is time to test it. The idea is that you validate your idea as fast as possible with as many users as you can. As you obtain insights from the tests of your prototype, you will have to learn to be flexible and change your solution as many times as you need.

The more flexible you are to learn from failure, the more probabilities you will have to succeed.

In summary…

The next time you doubt yourself and believe you are not creative enough to come up with an innovative idea remember: You are creative by nature!

You only need to train up your creative muscle. How? By practicing the design thinking process and learning to deeply understand the final user, define the right question, brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas, build cheap and rapid prototypes, and test continually your ideas. 

About Valerie Kramis

Valerie Kramis is a design Strategy Specialist with over 15 years of experience in marketing, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship. She is the co-founder of Agenda28, an award-winning design studio specializing in social impact created at the Harvard Innovation Labs and currently based in New York City and Mexico City. She has led more than 50 design projects in 10 different countries, to help social initiatives advance their missions through the use of human-centered approaches and social innovation methodologies. She is the main coach of Tahona Society Collective Spirit helping teams prepare for the grand final of the competition.

Information Sources 

Brown, T., & Kātz, B. (2019). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperBusiness.

Ideo design thinking. IDEO. (n.d.). https://designthinking.ideo.com/