When an executive at one of our client's asked me for a list of simple principles of design-thinking a few days ago, it got me thinking.

It's not like there's a shortage of them, as you can see from a quick Google search. We even contributed our own list years ago, which I expected to be sufficient response to this particular CTO. But as I considered them on this particular day, they all fell flat somehow.

I wanted something that reflected the trends and challenges that we see in our day-to-day work now, something that might be useful for seeing where an individual or even an organization might improve. I wanted the principles I shared with her to gently shine the light on the limiting habits that hold us back, often without us even being aware of them, and to be useful for any team, regardless of how well they were doing.

Tall order, I suppose, but here they are, fresh and updated for today: six principles you can use to grow a culture of design.


Start with Why

Begin with a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve. How will everyone recognize success?


Focus on Human Experience

Everything worth doing contributes to somebody's experience in some way. Consider whose experience will change and what it will be like in the future.


Find Empathy Through Immersion

Study users. Talk to them. Watch them work. Find out what makes them tick. Don't stop until you're surprised, delighted, and inspired.


Generate Ideas Collaboratively

Seek inspiration from diverse perspectives working together. Say, "Yes, and, what if…" Quiet the critic and focus on what works.


Prototype and Test Ideas Early

Start small to keep stakes low and move fast. Be curious and show humility. Ask, "How could this be better?" Leave time to improve your ideas.


Make it Fun

If it's not fun, you're doing it wrong. Make time and give teams permission to play and explore. The best ideas come from relaxed attention focused on a meaningful problem.


What would you add?

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