From Problem to Solution: Applying the Design Thinking Process

From Problem to Solution: Applying the Design Thinking Process

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s world, where challenges and problems arise daily, organizations and individuals are constantly seeking effective solutions. The traditional problem-solving methods are no longer enough to tackle complex and ambiguous issues. This is where the design thinking process comes into play.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation and problem-solving. It focuses on understanding the needs of people in order to create innovative solutions that are both useful and sustainable. By applying a structured and iterative approach, design thinking encourages creativity, collaboration, and empathy to tackle problems from multiple angles. Let’s explore two case study examples that highlight the effectiveness of the design thinking process.

Case Study 1: IDEO’s Success with the Palm V

In the late 1990s, Palm Computing faced a significant challenge. Its early personal digital assistants (PDA) were clunky and unintuitive, failing to gain mass market appeal. Palm turned to the design firm IDEO to lead a design thinking process that would transform their product.

IDEO conducted in-depth interviews and observations to understand user needs. They discovered that people wanted a device that was slim, convenient, and easy to use. By shifting their focus from technology-driven features to user-centric needs, IDEO’s team devised the concept of the Palm V.

Through multiple iterations and constant feedback from users, IDEO crafted a sleek PDA that fit in the palm of the hand. The design thinking process allowed IDEO to transform the PDA into an intuitive and user-friendly device. The Palm V became a tremendous success, revolutionizing the PDA market for years to come.

Case Study 2: Airbnb’s Rapid Growth and Disruption

At its inception in 2008, Airbnb faced a challenging problem. The founders struggled to find a scalable business model and to attract users to their home-sharing platform. In search of a solution, they applied the design thinking process.

The founders immersed themselves in their customers’ experiences, staying in homes listed on their platform and meeting with hosts to understand their pain points. By empathizing with both sides of the marketplace, they identified opportunities for improvement.

Through iterative prototyping and constant feedback loops, Airbnb gradually improved its platform, introducing features such as professional photography, guest reviews, and secure payment systems. These enhancements addressed key user concerns, increased trust, and facilitated bookings.

By applying the principles of design thinking, Airbnb not only solved its immediate problem but also disrupted the entire hospitality industry. Today, Airbnb is a household name with millions of listings worldwide.


These two case studies demonstrate how the design thinking process can lead to innovative and impactful solutions. By shifting the focus to users’ needs, using iterative methods, and fostering collaboration, organizations and individuals can tackle complex problems with creativity and empathy. Whether it’s revolutionizing the PDA industry or disrupting the hospitality market, design thinking provides a framework for turning problems into solutions.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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