Unit 1 of the LRNT 524 course introduced me to the Stanford Design Thinking process. It is considered a contemporary (generic) approach for designing through problem finding and design thinking mindset. Design thinking is a human-centered process that allows us to gain empathy for the points of view of others before we begin the search for solutions. It focuses on using a structured-centred empathic approach to solving problems. Design thinking processes have been used within companies and institutions to improve products, services and differentiate offerings from those of competitors. Malamed (2018) claims that Design Thinking places great value on empathy for the end users and that the design thinking practice is yet to gain popularity from instructional design university programs, professional training and workplace practices. Design Thinking consists of five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. Although the Stanford Design Thinking process presents the phases in a linear fashion, other variations to the model exist whereby after testing, the result of the testing feed more ideation before the new ideas are prototyped and tested again for the final version (Malamed, 2018).

Considering myself trained learning professional in systematic training design models that are put in place to guarantee those performance goals are met, I felt challenged and confused as to where Design Thinking belongs in an ISD model. Is it a competitive set of processes or does it complement ISD models? Is Design Thinking a way of designing a new product to be marketed to differentiate from the competition or design training? If the Design Thinking process is used, how can we evaluate whether learners can perform the tasks required to be successful in what they do? How can an organization justify the investment in the training intervention if an evaluation is not embedded in the process? Those questions created tension in my understanding of the Design Thinking process and its relationship with the ISD process. Moreover, I came across articles of critics of Design Thinking who characterize the process as a type of disease contagious and rots the brain (Vinsel, 2017).  Vinsel (2017) argues that Design Thinking manipulates the word empathy to disguise marketing efforts that try to discover customers’ wants and needs.

Keeping an open mind and as part of Assignment 1, I worked with the Stanford Design Thinking process to challenge me on how I could enhance the learning experience of my learners’ induction training. I found the experience interesting and innovative since the toolkit provided was easy to use and the instructions were easy to follow. However, interviewing my team partner rather than my end users constituted an indirect ideation process whereby we demonstrated our own version of empathy putting ourselves in the shoes of our audience. My observation was that the solution suite my partner and I came up with had embedded our own biases brought forward from our own experiences rather than our learners’.


Bates, T. (2014, September 9). Is the ADDIE model appropriate for teaching in a digital age? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/09/09/is-the-addie-model-appropriate-for-teaching-in-a-digital-age/

Malamed, C. (2018, December 11). How to use Design Thinking in learning to experience design [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/design-thinking-for-instructional-design/

Stanford University Institute of Design. (2016). A Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking — Stanford d.school [Website]. Retrieved from https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources-collections/a-virtual-crash-course-in-design-thinking

Vinsel, L. (2018). There’s so little there: A response to the Stanford D.School’s defence of Design Thinking. Retrieved from https://blog.usejournal.com/theres-so-little-there-there-a-response-to-the-stanford-d-school-s-defense-of-design-thinking-3cac35a1a365