Design Thinking in L&D

Design Thinking is a unique problem-solving approach that is human-centric, possibility-driven, option-focused, and iterative. Because it is user-centric, Design Thinking is often used by companies during the product development process. However, principles of Design Thinking are equally valid for learning, and L&D teams can leverage Design Thinking to create focused learning interventions that improve retention and result in better outcomes. 

Design Thinking helps organizations evaluate real-time situations through innovative and empathetic procedures which can be adapted across diverse domains. As an evaluation process, it helps an organization identify a solution which is viable, desirable, and feasible.


There are five basic principles which are at the core of the Design Thinking approach. These principles address complexities that are caused due to ever-changing business needs.

  • Empathy –It favors evaluating current reality through the lens of human sensibility and empathy
  • Define – After the observation of reality, insights are gathered and a process of defining the problem is established. The goal of this process is to define the problem as accurately as possible 
  • Ideate – Instead of brainstorming at random, ideas are generated around insights that were previously uncovered
  • Prototype – Instead of waiting to produce a superlative solution, prototypes are built to make ideas factual
  • Test and Iterations – Prototypes that were produced in the previous step are then tested on ground

Design Thinking allows employees to arrive at innovative solutions that serve as differentiators in a highly competitive business ecology. It also warrants reduction in uncertainties, as only relevant ideas which make it past the prototyping stage get scaled. Failure during this process is cheap and easy to detect. Since it is an iterative approach, a process can be re-evaluated at any stage.

L&D functions carry the capability development charter in modern companies. A Design Thinking based problem-solving approach can benefit all members of your L&D team by helping them experience and understand learning challengers by stepping into the learner’s shoes.

Design Thinking can help refine training processes and the ways in which a program influences the learner or how the learner engages with a program. It can also help shape technology for solutions and almost all areas in learning could benefit from the use of Design Thinking. Organizations require employees to think differently, at a fast pace and adapt to business changes - something which conventional development processes have failed to deliver. The Design Thinking approach favors agility -  instead of waiting for the ‘ideal solution’, key hypotheses are tested and improved upon. 

Design Thinking in L&D can help reduce costs associated with learning by helping build unique and innovative solutions. These solutions can be in program design, program delivery, or in program management.

Many of our customers have benefited from NIIT’s use of Design Thinking principles. Download our whitepaper on Design Thinking in L&D to explore some examples which highlight how the use of Design Thinking principles have helped L&D functions solve business critical problems.