Design Thinking Process for Learning Design. Some musing and thoughts…

It is no doubt that instructional design models are linked with the system thinking, which signifies the systematic mindset; however, every work activity needs to have a tweak of creativity and innovation. In order to ensure the development of robust solutions, design thinking needs to be integrated with iterative yet the collaborative approach.

The traditional design thinking approach is inclusive of five phases, such as empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. I have added the thought of each phase in the design thinking model that may help people think about using it in instructional design.


If you want to become a noteworthy learning experience designer, you need to start with empathizing because it helps identify gaps between the realized and desired state. While designing the learning, one needs to target an audience group, study their behavior, and record it. However, empathizing with them is much more than that, and it involves understanding the group to the core along with the challenges they are facing. Now, it is a complicated thing, and one needs to conduct multiple types of research to get closer to their customers;

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Field Research – This includes meeting the target audience, having a conversation with them about their job and overall experience, put yourself in their shoes, and analyze the problems they must be facing.

Interviews – In this scenario, you need to talk to the employees as well as the managers to gain a better understanding of the challenges, issues, and opportunities.

Focus groups – In this case, one needs to conduct the research, which will help understand the pattern of different behaviors among the users and also identify the beliefs and values. You also need to identify the motivating and demotivating factors of the target audience.

Problem Identification & Definition

Many times, ineffective outcomes are the result of biased and insufficient problem understanding. When design thinking approaches are being talked about, it is essential to define the problem at hand. If enough time is invested in defining the problem, you may not want to conduct employee learning, but take a different approach. It is crucial to think from every possible perspective and angle of the problem to make sure the process is on the right track and solving for the right problem.


Ideation is the critical phase of design thinking, and during this phase, the solutions are conceived by the learning designer and the SMEs for the problems that were found during the research. Hopefully, the target audience is involved in this process to gain suggestions and ideas. After gathering multiple ideas, they are turned into the potential solutions which can include following methodologies (among others);

Brainstorming – In this case, all the members sit together, think of all possible solutions, and write them down and discuss them (zzzz). Overused and not effective.

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Mind mapping – In this case, you will connect multiple ideas, identify the pattern, and find the best possible solution.

Creative Matrix – Using a matrix where each cell represents the intersection of two disparate categories. You can then use this “mash-up” of categories to help generate a wide range of concepts in each cell.

Thumbnail sketching – A series of small drawings used to quickly explore a variety of ideas


With a prototype, you can try out the solution without investing the entire resources, but the outcomes will be predicted in an enhanced way. A prototype can be simple as a general sketch of the idea.


Design thinking is an on-going process, and at each step, testing is required, which helps gain feedback and upgrading the process to refine the overall productivity.

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So those are some thoughts.

I am wondering what you do to get “closer to your customer” and to get to good measurable outcomes?