Design Thinking: From Insights to Viability

It is becoming increasingly recognized that innovations that succeed follow a systematic, rigorous process of need identification, hypothesis generation, testing, learning, and iteration.

Course Introduction


In this course, you will learn and follow a systematic innovation process that is both a toolbox for stimulating creativity and a methodology for defining and solving problems. This process involves applying the concepts of design thinking and hypothesis-driven innovation (popularized by the term, lean startup) to design and test new ideas that address a real-world need.

the Design Thinking Process

Early in the course, you will identify your own real-world need to examine through this process. Whether you choose an internally-facing need within your organization, or a customer-facing product or service, you will focus on understanding the need deeply by engaging in meaningful, empathetic interactions with users, creating and testing low-resolution, rapid prototypes, and building and testing key aspects of your business case. Much of your coursework will be completed individually, however, you will be coming together with team members at key junctions to generate ideas and hypotheses.

Key Topics

  • Human-centered design
  • Needs finding
  • Interviewing and empathy-building techniques
  • Making sense of observations and insights
  • Defining a point of view
  • Ideation
  • Developing and testing prototypes
  • Minimal viable products
  • Defining and testing business models and business cases

Design Thinking: From Insights to Viability is based on the popular Startup Garage course taught at Stanford GSB since 2012. Over that time, 80 companies have been founded by students who took the course. Thirty of these raised venture capital or seed stage funding, totalling in excess of $1 billion. Here are just a few ventures created over the past six years in Startup Garage:

The content and assignments you’ll engage with in this course have been adapted to meet the specific needs of the corporate innovator: the entrepreneurial corporate executive who aspires to develop new products, services, or processes that meet previously unidentified user needs. A user can be external to an organization (customer, supplier, partner) or internal (employee), and the goal is to find common ground between the needs of the user and the goals of the organization. We’ve helped well-known, international corporations innovate using this process and methodology.

Course Faculty

Stefanos Zenios

The Investment Group of Santa Barbara Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Operations, Information & Technology


Marineh Lalikian
Director, Stanford LEAD Online Business Program Executive Education