Design Thinking in Innovation

Often, when I am speaking with a new or prospective client, they will ask me, “What about Design Thinking? Does Ideas To Go use Design Thinking?”

Our process and design thinking are sort of like Greek and Roman mythology—same characters, different names. 

Here's the thing: Design Thinking is simply one way of framing the Creative Problem Solving Process. And while we at Ideas To Go don’t use Design Thinking references and vocabulary as such, our process and Design Thinking have the same parents: Divergence and Convergence. Sort of like Greek and Roman mythology—same characters, different names. 

To make the comparison clearly, here’s a step-by-step break down of the Ideas To Go Process versus Design Thinking.


Design Thinking Step:  Empathize

The Goal:  Understand needs from the point of view of the consumer.

ITG Process:  In an ITG project, we bring the notion of empathy into the process at multiple points along the way:


Design Thinking Step:  Define

The Goal:  Use learning from Empathize step to frame the challenge.

ITG Process:  In an ITG project, we define the opportunity during the opportunity area discussion and create a flexible ideation agenda based on the outcome.


Design Thinking Step:  Ideate

The Goal:  Generate lots of possibilities to address the challenge(s) identified during the previous phase, Define.

ITG Process:  In an ITG project, we ideate WITH Creative Consumers® associates, incorporating the empathy piece in a more robust and meaningful way.


Design Thinking Step:  Prototype

The Goal:  Narrow down possibilities and develop carton prototypes using the top ideas.

ITG Process:  In an ITG project, we call this Convergence. And the whole point is to define (there’s that piece, again!) and develop the top possibilities. Our process is flexible enough to allow that the items developed could be carton prototypes, and they also could be concept outlines, and they could also be full concepts with artwork. Or they could be claims, names, or advertising/promotions. We’re not limited to prototypes.


Design Thinking Step:  Test

The Goal:  Test the prototypes in a real-world environment to determine what’s working and what needs optimizing.

ITG Process:  In an ITG project, this step most often manifests as consumer reaction groups.  Sometimes, these groups involve consumers trying a prototype, but often they react to written and/or visual concepts. This can be online or in-person.


And in the end, whether you’re following the Design Thinking process or the ITG process, the Testing step often leads right back to the Empathy step. Both are cyclical, not linear, processes. 

I think this answers my client's question: The Ideas To Go Process and Design Thinking are siblings in the Creative Problem Solving family—both structured to achieve extraordinary results grounded in consumer needs.


Dina Pancoast is an Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

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Dina Pancoast

Dina Pancoast is a Creative Process Designer and Facilitator as well as the developer of Ideas To Go’s Behavioral Innovation® Workshop. Dina has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and also studied mime and physical theatre at the Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Prior to joining Ideas To Go in 2014, Dina worked in the media industry as a creative process and strategy expert for radio, television, newspaper, and digital properties. Trained in Creative Problem Solving in 2004, she has facilitated hundreds of sessions for clients in every industry imaginable.