Design Thinking Workshops

Design thinking workshops can reveal useful insights into real consumer behaviour to help teams design, prototype and get feedback on groundbreaking ideas.

The design thinking mindset and approach is rooted in empathy – imagining the world from different perspectives, taking a “people first” approach to understand explicit or latent needs. It’s these insights that inspire useful, practical solutions.

Coupled with this is an inherent bias towards action – through learning from others, creative collaboration, rapid experimentation and constant iteration.

Design thinking workshops usually follow a set process:


The crux of design thinking is that it helps you solve problems from the perspective of the people who will use your solution. By focusing first and foremost on users, you can design solutions and experiences that are most likely to have a practical, actual benefit.

This means building empathy for who they are and what they see as important. Ideally you’d do this with them directly – by observing their behaviour or interviewing them. However it’s also possible to achieve a degree of empathy simply by imagining yourself in their shoes, and immersing yourself in their situation so that you can begin to see things from their perspective.

As an example, before we started running design thinking workshops, we first interviewed our clients to find out their positive and negative experiences of previous workshops. We did this with a beginner’s mindset and welcomed critical feedback.


Once you have your insights, you can move on to defining the specific problem that you are proposing to solve. This might be the most pressing need identified in the empathy stage, or an identified area that’s most interesting or suitable for your company to explore. An effective way of doing this is by asking “How might we…?”

By forming a compelling “How might we…?” question you are creating a problem statement that you can use as the basis to generate ideas for potential solutions.

For example in creating this web page, we asked: “How might we design a page that explains the design thinking process simply and clearly?” and “How might we get visitors excited about the benefits of design thinking workshops?”


Now it’s time to focus on idea generation. Ideally as many ideas as possible – and as diverse as possible. You’re really trying to explore here and come up with a wide variety of potential solutions.

Why generate so many ideas? The first ideas you have are generally the most obvious and clichéd. Going for quantity encourages you to step beyond the obvious – to generate really original and unexpected solutions.

Once you’ve finished generating ideas, you can then go through a process of sorting and evaluating them.


An idea is nothing while still in your head. You need to get it out into the real world, to see how people react to it. Building a prototype is an effective way to achieve this.

James Dyson made 5,127 prototypes of his vacuum before he got it right. Dyson’s ‘learning by doing’ process – an experimental approach to solving problems – meant that he learned from each one of these failures.

But prototypes aren’t just for technology or product development. A prototype is anything a person can respond to. A simple sketch or mock-up can be enough to get actionable feedback.


Finally, you need to find people to test your prototypes so you can get valuable feedback in order to refine your solutions and make them better.

You’re looking for criticism as well as validation – critical feedback will help you make improvements.

Testing will also help you find out more about your target audience, and it’s this that demonstrates the cyclical nature of design thinking – constant iteration and learning from failure in order to improve your solution.

Design Thinking Toolkit

Empathy Mapping

An effective approach to quickly gain a better understanding of colleagues, stakeholders, customers – or whoever you’re working with or for. It’s as simple as imagining yourself in their shoes and looking at things from their perspective.


A persona is a fictional character designed to represent a target audience – often with a name and visual representation to make it easier to empathise with them. They help us consider goals, behaviours and personalities of people that might be interested in our idea.

Dot Voting

When you need to clarify the preferences of several people, dot voting is a very popular method. Give each person a set number of dot stickers to represent their votes; each person sticks their dots next to their personal choice.


As Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

How might we?

By forming a compelling “How might we…?” question you are creating a problem statement that you can use as the basis to generate ideas for potential solutions. Create great HMWs by focusing on emotions, questioning assumptions or creating analogies.

Role Playing

Role play is a useful technique for playing out possible ideas and solutions. For example, two people can role play selling a product to a difficult client, thus revealing potential product weaknesses or successful selling techniques.


A storyboard can help you map out the journey of how an idea might be used or received by real people. Storyboards can show a ‘user journey’ – for instance where they click on a website, what they look at, what they think as they’re doing it.

Affinity Mapping

Usually, when you’ve had lots of ideas, some will be similar. They might be variations on a theme, but they might also be similar in scope, or resources required. The first step is to identify these similarities and arrange them on an affinity map – essentially clusters of post-its.

And many more…

Perfectly sized, and in your comfort zone

Design thinking workshopswork best for teams of 12-20, however they can accommodate more if you have a spacious venue.

Three hours is a good length for a design thinking workshop – long enough to explore a topic, generate ideas and agree on a prototyping strategy; short enough to keep the energy high and enable you to get all the day’s other important tasks done too.

However we also recommend full day design thinking workshops if you have time – this enables you to really go deep, plus we have plenty of activities and tricks up our sleeves to keep everyone upbeat and productive.

If you have a suitable space within your offices, that’s great. Ideally, a room with natural light, walls for post-it notes, not too many tables, a couple of flipcharts and a projector / large TV screen. Alternatively we can suggest some great creative spaces.

We come armed with reams of post-its, Sharpies, worksheets and props – including a rubber brick and ping-pong balls! – to help stimulate creative juices and problem solving powers.

“After the session, my colleague and I couldn’t stop talking about the new ideas we had generated in our heads, all of which happened in such a short period of time. I would recommend Creative Huddle to any company who have reached a creative stalemate.”

Heidi Swain, University of Sussex

“James has great integrity, is down to earth and a really nice guy too. He brings a practical and clear approach to creativity tools and techniques, and strips out the mystique and the b*llsh*t which is no small accomplishment.”

Roland Harwood, 100%Open