Principles Not Methods

A number of design thinking tools exist – often in the form of method cards. While these cards are handy for design-thinking types, they tend to create complexity for business folks who just want to get work done.

After months of teaching design thinking methods to product teams, I realized the immediate value was helping them understand which way to navigate: getting more customer empathy, coming up with more diverse ideas, narrowing and prioritizing, or experimenting to learn quickly.


Indicators that more empathy is needed:

  • We’ve asked customers what they need and built it.
  • We don’t know how important this problem/solution is for this customer.

Indicators that more broad thinking is needed:

  • We have one great solution we think will work.
  • We are really comfortable with all of the ideas we’ve come up with.

Indicators that the team needs to narrow:

  • We have lots of ideas, but are having trouble recognizing the great ones.
  • We are unable to make our prioritization decisions “stick.”

Indicators that the team needs to rapidly experiment with customers:

  • It’s difficult to distinguish facts from opinions and guesses.
  • We don’t know which customer problem to solve first.


Having your team intentionally select and focus on a direction accelerates learning and the liklihood of delivering solutions that delight customers.