Design Thinking vs Agile: What’s the Difference and How Can They Work Together?

Did you know that 41% of marketers already use an agile approach? Not only that but 42% of marketers that haven’t adopted an agile approach, plan to do so as soon as possible. 

So, it begs the question, why? 

In order to understand these decisions, we’ve got to understand the differences between design thinking and agile thinking. Are they totally different? Or are there scenarios where they actually work together? 

If you’re looking for answers, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything you need to know in this guide. 

What Is Design Thinking? 

Design thinking can be described as an approach to how a business or a team finds problems. Design thinking means you’ll have to have a certain ability for empathy and the ability to understand the challenges that end users may face. 

The entire design thinking process is one that facilitates the development of new ideas. It’s a way to challenge archaic approaches and assumptions, and redefine problems. 

Ultimately, the goal of design thinking is to search for alternative solutions that are not always visible from the start, as described on

What Is Agile Thinking? 

Agile thinking is a completely different approach and methodology that focuses on keeping businesses ready to respond to change, consistently. 

There are a number of Agile frameworks that can be adopted. These are ones like Scrum, Dynamic Systems Development Method, Crystal, and Feature-Driven Development. Each of these frameworks has the inherent characteristics of Agile thinking at its foundation. 

The main characteristics of agile are:

  • Adopting higher visibility 
  • Showing better transparency 
  • Being able to identify and resolve issues earlier 
  • Aiming for exceptional quality always 
  • Consistent integration and iterative releases

This is how you know you’ve found and adopted an agile thinking approach. 

How Do They Work Together? 

When the two are put together, agile thinking and design thinking can create truly customer-centric and user-centric environments. These environments will focus on reaching optimum outcomes through rapid problem solving and consistent iteration releases. 

The way they work together is simple, really. 

Design thinking is what your team would use to identify problems. 

Agile thinking is what your team would use to create solutions to solve those problems. 

The reason the two work together so well is that Agile thinking is a regular approach to problem-solving, so in your journey, you don’t all of a sudden hit a massive problem that needs solving. This is because your design thinking approach is always identifying issues. And the Agile methodology gives you the platform to react to change and solve these quicker. 

Here are three quick tips when implementing both design thinking and agile thinking:

  1. Don’t go too big in the beginning. Start by focusing on smaller opportunities to test the approaches. 
  2. In order to foster the creativity to fully adopt both systems of thinking, focus on creating cross-functional teams that can promote collaboration internally and with end-users. 
  3. Always try to balance development and design. In the beginning, you may find tension rising as teams try to find the balance between development and design. 

Trying to leverage Agile and design thinking is not going to be easy. There will be challenges, but you will find it worth it. 

Agile and Design Thinking: Path to Success

So, you’ve decided to implement your agile thinking and design thinking approaches within your teams and business. Bold move! 

Remember, adopting these methodologies and frameworks is not going to happen overnight. You need to be there to guide your teams and assist in the transition, otherwise, you may be setting them up for failure before they even start. 

Head on over to the business side of our blog for more great content to keep your business evolving and adapting.