Learn/Apply Design Thinking by asking 4 WHAT QUESTIONS

So last year I started taking classes on Design Thinking.

If You are hearing “Design Thinking” for the first time, welcome back from the Stone Age…

Where exactly have You been?  🙄 

Design Thinking is one of the many buzzwords of this age… Click here to take a crash course if You dont mind.


Design Thinking is basically a new way of approaching problem solving.

In design thinking You are trying to see the problem through the eyes of the people encountering the problem. 

There are 5 major stages of Design Thinking namely;

  1. Empathising 
  2. Defining of the Problem
  3. Ideating the possible Solutions
  4. Prototyping the Solutions and 
  5. Testing the solutions to get the best fit.

I will not go into details so that the simple blog post I wanted to write will not turn into a textbook.


Instead, I will use one of the best methods of Design Thinking I have come across to drive home my point.

It is what I call the 4 WHATS of DESIGN THINKING

With this approach, You are only asking 4 WHAT QUESTIONS thats all and those questions will capture the essence of design thinking.

Let’s dive in shall We?

The 4 WHATS are namely;

  1. What IS?
  2. What IF?
  3. What WORKS?
  4. What WOWS?



Let me go a little deeper into the WHATS.


Under “What is?”, You are examining the current PROBLEM SITUATION. More like WHAT IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING… AKA… Ki lon shele gangan!!!  😆 

You are trying to get a good understanding of WHAT IS happening, which might come from You actually GOING TO THE PROBLEM AREAS to examine and observe things by yourself and see through the eyes of the people facing the problems. 

Let me give You examples, so the organization I work for provides portals for clients in remote locations and whilst it is very easy for me to sit in my air conditioned 4th Floor Office and look at the beautiful hills of Enugu from the top, I sometimes have to travel as far as Birnin Kebbi in Kebbi state to see how my clients are using the portals and the challenges they are facing while using it..

While I am working with 4G Internet, they need to travel to Kontangora to get a feel of EDGE.

With my observations, I know I should provide them something that requires little or no Internet use.

I believe You get the picture I am trying to paint?

Once You can conveniently answer the WHAT IS question, You can move to the next question

2. WHAT IF? 

If You are here I believe You have answered the first question?  😎 

Now that You know WHAT IS..the next thing to ask is WHAT IF… Give possible solutions for the current problem situation…at this stage NO SOLUTION IS STUPID.. Allow yourself to wander in your imaginations..

In my case, WHAT IF my client can use their portals without INTERNET, what if they can communicate with the portal using SMS, WHAT IF they can use USSD?

You get the logic right?

Generate as many WHAT IF scenarios as your imagination can carry and then move to the next question


Now, it is time to AUDITION your WHAT IFS..

Out of all the WHAT IF scenarios You have come up with, WHICH OF THEM is FEASIBLE giving the available resources and know how?.

If You noticed, I didnt use POSSIBLE… Possibility is a relative concept. What is not possible to You is possible for somebody in China for instance.

So at this stage You want to filter out your WHAT IFs and settle for WHAT WORKS giving the available resources and constraints then move to the final question


At this stage, You have a handful of solutions that are possible to implement.

Now You need to consider which of the solutions your CUSTOMERS or TARGET AUDIENCE will find appealing and useful.

Of what use is your solution when it will cost  10 times what they are currently paying?

Is it working? YES!

Can they afford it? No!



Well, that is what I call the 4 WHATS of DESIGN THINKING…

Like I said earlier, this is just an INTRO TO THE CONCEPT OF DESIGN THINKING.


If You want to learn design thinking professionally, You can reach out to my Sister , Busola Majekodunmi, she is an expert in that field.


Cheers to your business success!,


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