3 Out of the Box Industries That Use Design Thinking

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 4 min read

Companies strive for an unparalleled value proposition—a solution, change, or system that will transcend their status from conventional to progressive.  And in chasing this paragon, it seems sensible that creating something extraordinary requires extraordinary minds.  Executing spaceships garners the genius of rocket scientists, and building MRI’s requires the aptitude of medical engineers.

However, as a true radical reminds us, “out of an eye comes research, and out of selection comes painful cattle.” -Gertrude Stein

The herd mentality tells business owners to select exclusive pools of industry specific experts to create something great. But when it comes to truly solving problems, design thinking reminds us to never disregard the common human capacity for extraordinary thinking.  Everyone holds a singular skill set, perspective and background capable of harnessing creativity, so giving more people access to the problem is the primary step in painting a more complete solution.  And although some ideas may inquire the brainpower of an Einstein, they will thrive with the insight of a child.  

Design thinking unpacks the mundane to create the insane—and here are 3 fields that (you may be surprised) are doing just that:


Although hospitals serve as epicenters of healing, the hospital experience can become emotionally scarring for patients and their loved ones. To combat the feeling of alienation illness often induces, top medical professionals are turning their attention outward.  The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design held a two day course in understanding the emergency room from the other side—as the patient or the family. Outside their scrubs, medical students establish a keener sense of empathy and in turn, an enhanced ability to address the voids in patient care. And Stanford is not the only institution bringing patient and family voices into the problem to locate solutions— perhaps, Doug Dietz voices the most inspiring effects of design thinking, when he sought a solution to the fear children suffered upon receiving MRI's.


According to NASA’s Jessie Kawata, rocket scientists are storytellers too. In the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the mental stamina of scientific genius aligns with artists and designers to drive solar system exploration forward. In the “Innovation Foundry, or…the hub for missions formulation,” artists bring ideas floating in space down to earth by working alongside astrophysicists to create visuals that communicate “mission concepts” more clearly.  Kawata also established a “storytelling initiative” that empowers scientists and engineers to identify how their missions will address wider communal demands outside JPL.  By understanding and articulating the bigger picture behind their concepts, scientists ground their genius with human needs.  So when these missions materialize for the rest of the planet, these ideas are not alien abstractions—but public admiration.


Deemed first as recreational, virtual reality is changing its headquarters to the classroom by adding more players to education.  From a mess free, more ethical approach to dissecting a frog to ascending up the peak of Machu Picchu through Google expeditions, VR immerses students further into their studies by cultivating what Stanford University asserts  as the “attributes most crucial for human learning: persistence, risk taking, collaboration, [and] problem solving.”  And it’s not just VR changing the landscape in academics—teachers are too.  In the Shadow a Student challenge, teachers and head academic figures shadow their students—taking tests, engaging in lessons, and completing the assignments they would normally administrate.  Because through the empathetic eye of design thinking, learning should not adapt to pedantics or regulations—it must adapt to the students.

Design thinking opens the human eye to the heart of organizational challenges.

“…creativity isn’t some rare gift to be enjoyed by the lucky few — it’s a natural part of human thinking and behavior. In too many of us it gets blocked. But it can be unblocked. And unblocking that creative spark can have far-reaching implications for yourself, your organization, and your community.”

– Tom Kelly

Only through empathy, understanding and common sense can we become vanguards of change, and ignite the extraordinary from “ordinary” minds.

Ready to bring extraordinary thinking to your industry? Let’s have a conversation about human-centered design.