How Can Design Thinking Improve Your Work?

Written by Differential on December 21, 2022

Have you ever wanted to be better at something? Like the time you played baseball and struck out every at-bat. Or when you were so nervous during an interview you left with a shirt three shades darker from sweat. Okay, so maybe we can’t help you there, but we can help you hit a home run around your work goals. We’re here to help you approach workplace obstacles through a design thinking framework that we’ve personally tested and tweaked.

If you are not familiar with design thinking, simply put, it is a system for understanding needs and problems, brainstorming ideas to solve those challenges, and prototyping in an iterative fashion to arrive at the best solution over time.

Design thinking is a great tool for understanding others, figuring out their needs, and creating solutions that solve their problems. The process keeps the end-user in mind from brainstorming to development, hence why some refer to it as human-centered design. But sometimes in life, you find that the person you want to focus upon in a certain context is, well, YOU.

While design thinking works for advancing new projects, building software programs, and keeping a business on the leading edge of innovation, it has tremendous potential for unlocking new levels of success within your own work life.

Why is this relevant? To be most effective in your own endeavors and serve clients in the best way, we’ve found optimizing your own habits (personal and work-related) seriously affects your end success.

Building the Engine

In his popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the need to balance production and production capability. Production is the attainment of the outcomes you are after, whereas production capability is the health of the system that produces those results. While getting the results is rewarding, you have to maintain the engine that fuels the results. This post is aimed at getting you to make sure the engine behind your work is most fruitful.

This works on a couple of levels. You could focus on just you or you could apply it to your company’s processes as a whole. Either way, YOU are intimately connected to the processes. Therefore, your considerations and user research, in this case, should involve a significant level of introspection.

REPpin’ Design Thinking

Before jumping into the key areas of the framework we’ve adopted, we want to emphasize that there is no objectively correct way to do things. It’s about finding what works best for you and your company. Our hope in writing this is that we will inspire you to use design thinking on a continual basis, aligning the way you do things most ideally with where you want to go. This is simply a starting point to catalyze the design thinking process.

Whether you are considering your personal work or your company’s, let’s walk through three key areas that will help you to REP design thinking in all you do;


  • Are your current goals tangible (think S.M.A.R.T. goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely)?
  • Does everyone in your company know their own objectives (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)?
  • Is there a clear path of tasks and/or objectives that builds to short- and long-term goals?
  • How do you measure success? Are there important intangibles to be aware of?


  • What are your recurring distractions at work or in the office?
  • How could you design an office space (physical or virtual) that encourages more collaboration?
  • Are there open and easily accessible lines of communication between employees?
  • Are new viewpoints welcomed and considered?


  • For key tasks, are there defined processes for working through them?
  • Do you have defined tactics for solving problems and unprecedented issues as they arise?
  • While structure is helpful, is there enough room and freedom for people to flex their creativity?
  • What are the most important values that would allow the company to best add value to its customers? How does leadership emphasize and uphold these?

For each category above, spend time answering the questions (as well as any more you think of) with yourself and your team. Find key challenges and shared themes within the answers. Then, brainstorm to find innovative solutions and new avenues to explore - continuous improvement is key! For a fun brainstorming framework, check out this guide on an exercise known as a Lightning Decision Jam.

Most importantly, take action. There’s nothing worse than investing time in an idea that doesn't even get a trial run (ok, maybe not worse than sweating through your interview shirt). The time spent optimizing results, environments, and processes is some of the most important work you can do for the long-term success and innovative abilities of your company.

Now, Go!

Design thinking is truly unbounded, with virtually no limits as to what is applicable. The obvious implementation is to optimize your products and services, but don’t overlook its potential to enhance your individual and company processes. By designing a work environment that focuses on pursuing clear goals with effective processes, you will be best positioned to level up as a company.

Interested in learning more about design thinking? Chat with our team of design thinking practitioners here.