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{Excerpt} In a world of continuous flux, where markets mature faster and everyone is affected by information overload, organizations regard innovation, including management innovation, as the prime driver of sustainable competitive advantage. To unlock opportunities, some of them use mindsets and protocols from the field of design to make out unarticulated wants and deliberately imagine, envision, and spawn futures.

Design is more important when function is taken for granted and no longer helps stakeholders differentiate. In the last five years, design thinking has emerged as the quickest organizational path to innovation and high-performance, changing the way creativity and commerce interact. In the past, design was a downstream step in the product development process, aiming to enhance the appeal of an existing product. Today, however, organizations ask designers to imagine solutions that meet explicit or latent needs and to build upstream entire systems that optimize customer experience and satisfaction.

Therefore, although the term "design" is commonly understood to describe an object (or end result), it is in its latest and most effective form a process, an action, and a verb, not a noun: essentially, it is a protocol to see, shape, and build. Lately, design approaches are also being applied to infuse insight into the heart of campaigns and address social and other concerns.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). Design thinking. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

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This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (