Using Design Thinking for Entrepreneurial Problem-Solving: A Practical Example

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that emphasises empathy, creativity, and collaboration. It's a powerful tool for entrepreneurs looking to create innovative solutions that meet the needs of their target audience. In this article, we'll explore the steps of the design thinking process and how they can be applied to a practical example of developing affordable baby incubators.

Design thinking is important because it provides a structured and creative approach to problem-solving that puts the user's needs and experiences at the forefront of the process. By understanding and empathising with the user, entrepreneurs can develop innovative solutions that truly meet their needs and address their pain points.

Design thinking also encourages collaboration, experimentation, and iteration, which can lead to more effective and efficient problem-solving. By using design thinking, entrepreneurs can create products and services that are not only functional and efficient but also enjoyable and memorable for their users. Ultimately, design thinking can help entrepreneurs create more meaningful and impactful solutions that have the potential to change the world for the better.

The design thinking process steps are detailed below:

Step 1: Empathise - Learn About Your Audience
The first step in design thinking is to empathise with your target audience. This means understanding their needs, desires, and pain points.

For the case of developing affordable baby incubators, it's important to understand that most premature infants are born in rural areas, and most never make it to a hospital. This insight helps us understand the importance of creating an incubator that is affordable, easy to transport, and doesn't require electricity.

Step 2: Define - Establish a Point of View

Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience, the next step is to define the problem.

In the case of the baby incubator, the problem is clear: there is a need for an affordable, easy-to-use, and transportable incubator that doesn't require electricity. Defining the problem helps establish a point of view that guides the rest of the design thinking process.

Step 3: Ideate - Focus on Possible Solutions

This is where creativity comes in. You'll start generating ideas and exploring possibilities to solve the problem at hand. Brainstorming is a popular ideation technique, where all ideas are welcomed and encouraged. It's important to focus on quantity rather than quality in this stage, as it allows for a breadth of ideas that can then be narrowed down. Mind mapping is another ideation tool that can help you explore different angles and perspectives on the problem. As you ideate, keep the target audience in mind and try to generate solutions that are accessible and effective for them.

For the baby incubator example, ideation could include brainstorming sessions that result in ideas such as using solar power or alternative materials to create a low-cost incubator. Entrepreneurs need to explore as many options as possible and select the most promising ideas to move forward to the next stage.

Step 4: Prototype - Try Many Solutions

Now that you have a pool of possible solutions, it's time to start bringing them to life. Prototyping is the process of creating a tangible representation of your idea. It can be anything from a sketch to a physical model. The purpose of prototyping is to test and refine your solutions. This step is crucial in design thinking as it allows you to identify flaws, improve functionality, and gather feedback. Prototyping can be done with low-fidelity materials like paper and cardboard, or with high-fidelity materials like 3D printing. It's important to keep in mind that prototypes are not the final solution, but rather a way to test and refine ideas.

For the baby incubator example, entrepreneurs could create a simple prototype of a sleeping bag that mimics the conditions of an incubator. The prototype can be tested on a small scale to identify areas for improvement before moving on to the next stage.

Step 5: Test - Find the Best Solution for Your Audience

The final stage of the design thinking process is to test and refine the solution. This involves getting feedback from the target audience and making any necessary adjustments to the design. In the case of the baby incubator example, entrepreneurs would test the sleeping bag prototype in real-world situations to identify any issues or areas for improvement. Based on the feedback received, entrepreneurs can refine their solution until they have a final product that meets the needs of the target audience

When implementing design thinking, there are some key dos and don'ts to keep in mind to ensure successful problem-solving and innovation.


1.     Empathise: Start by truly understanding your audience, their needs, and their experiences. Take the time to observe and listen to them.

2.     Focus on the problem: Clearly define the problem you are trying to solve and establish a point of view that guides the design process.

3.     Be creative: Generate many ideas, even those that seem wild or unconventional. Encourage team members to build on each other's ideas to create something truly innovative.

4.     Prototype: Create rough models or prototypes of possible solutions and test them with users to refine the design.

5.     Test and iterate: Test prototypes with users and gather feedback to improve the design. Continuously iterate until you have a solution that meets the needs of your audience.


1.     Skip steps: Every step in the design thinking process is important, and skipping any one of them can result in a flawed solution. Be sure to follow each step-in order.

2.     Assume you know your audience: Don't assume you know what your audience needs or wants without first conducting thorough research and empathy work.

3.     Limit your ideas: Don't dismiss ideas without fully exploring them. Encourage brainstorming and the sharing of all ideas, no matter how unconventional.

4.     Be afraid to fail: Failure is a natural part of the design thinking process. Embrace it and learn from it to improve your design.

5.     Stop iterating: Don't stop iterating and testing your solution. Continuous improvement is essential to creating a successful and innovative solution.

Design thinking is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs looking to solve complex problems and create innovative solutions. By following the dos and avoiding the don'ts, entrepreneurs can effectively apply design thinking to their businesses and create impactful and meaningful solutions.  

Creo Incubator's entrepreneurship course is designed to help entrepreneurs not only understand and implement design thinking, but also to expand their ideation toolset to utilise a breadth of design thinking methodologies. The course provides a comprehensive overview of the design thinking process and guides students through practical exercises and case studies to reinforce learning. In addition to understanding the five stages of design thinking, students also learn how to use various ideation tools to generate creative solutions for a range of challenges. By taking the Creo Incubator entrepreneurship course, entrepreneurs can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to implement design thinking effectively and to create innovative solutions to complex problems.
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