8 Best Design Thinking Activities for Businesses


To understand users, it’s not necessarily as easily done as a question-and-answer. Design thinking activities are a mix of techniques a team can use to better empathize with the user as well as successfully land on different challenges and needs. These sorts of activities facilitate thinking throughout each phase of the project and can have a major impact on inspiring creativity targeted and prioritizing the user.

Here are the eight design thinking activities that businesses needs to focus on:

Activity #1: Introductions and Networking

Introductions and networking is one of the most important design thinking activities for businesses. If everyone is new on the team, try a speed dating style game. Everyone speaks individually to however many people you want. They introduce themselves and share what they hope to achieve from this gathering of people.

This is a sort of icebreaker kind of game, gets people loosened up at the start of a design thinking workshop. It builds the sort of camaraderie, which is going to be a good thing when the design thinking processes really kick into gear.

Activity #2: Yes, But And Yes, And

This design thinking activity splits team members into pairs and is based on a very basic improv warmup. Person 1 makes a statement about doing something. Person 2 has to answer with a reason not to do it. Hence the ‘Yes, But’ part. This same activity is then repeated except now Person 2 is saying ‘Yes, And’.

This is to get people comfortable moving away from negatives, zeroing in on positives and moving forward with a ‘Yes, And’ attitude of support as opposed to responding to ideas with an immediate putdown.

Activity #3: 6 Thinking Hats

You take six people. Each is assigned a different hat – ‘clear understanding’, ‘feelings and emotions’, ‘negative outcomes’, ‘possible solutions to beat the difficulties’, ‘solutions to the problem’, and ‘controlling the process’. Rotate a product or problem through these six perspectives and really explore in depth what the person is saying.

This is also one of the best exercises to prevent conflict. If you are in a group with a lot of different design thinking styles, experiences, or approaches that don’t necessarily line up, the ‘6 thinking hats’ design thinking activity may be a place to start.

Activity #4: Why, Why, Why

The ‘Why, Why, Why’ design thinking activity has someone make a statement. Then, they’re questioned with repeated whys. This can go up to 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 whys. With each ‘why’, the person has to elaborate further and go deeper. This is key to better understanding the underlying motivations of the user.

The activity can help team members get into a pattern of questioning and questioning until they’ve boiled things down to the bare essentials. This is very important when trying to uncover a problem statement to solve through design thinking.

Activity #5: Creating Personas

This is a design thinking activity many teams may be doing instinctively in the process of moving from stage to stage but in case you’re not, it’s the crafting of 3-4 user personas. Info you might include are things like interests, goals, daily routine, a name, age, profession, motivation, and their likes and dislikes.

You might even include a photo or drawing of your user personas. Try to do a few of these so that you get a sense of who your user is and the diversity among them. Many designs find use in many different hands and some designers don’t initially suspect.

Activity #6: Map the Journey

As you get closer to testing and prototyping your ideas and getting them in front of users, an exercise you can use in design thinking is mapping out the journey. Identify different moments a user’s going to grab your design and use it. Observe or imagine how they might interact with it.

Note any moments or milestones that may have an influence over this. From start to finish, understand how a user’s interpreting your design. You may come to discover add-ons or modifications to make that could make your design all the more useful.

Activity #7: SCAMPER Method

The SCAMPER method stands for ‘substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate, and reverse.’ It’s a way to generate ideas quickly. Take the product or thing you’re looking at and apply SCAMPER to it. Substitute something in its place and see how that feels.

Combine the product with something else. Adapt it to a new use or environment. Etc. This may result in you thinking of a product a little differently and can help make clear where the problem areas are.

Activity #8: Post-It-Note Favourites

Some groups will come up with a lot of ideas. Which is great! …unless you have limited time to design think. If you’re stuck on what ideas to test and move forward with, have everyone anonymous write their favourite idea on a Post-It-Note and put it in a box. This is like having a private vote. This way, you can choose a few winners and explore further from there.

Another approach to this is giving everyone 3-4 sticky dots, putting ideas up on a board, and having members dot their top favourites. This will also narrow down what to explore and save time.


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