Design Thinking and Design Sprint: Two sides of the same coin?


Did you know? When it comes to conceptualising and developing products or services, Design Thinking (DT) and Design Sprint (DS) are two of a kind!

Whereas the DT is a human-centred five-step philosophy for finding the sweet spot of an issue, the DS is a flexible five-day process for tackling a critical business problem by blending a subtle mix of agile methods. Yet, with a leap of imagination, it becomes clear how powerful the synergies between the two can be.

Let’s start by recalling the theoretical differences between these two well-known concepts.


On the one hand, Design Thinking is a five-step non-linear approach: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test. In doing so, it balances the desirability, feasibility and viability of a product or service to convert customer needs into customer value and business opportunity. It relies on a wide range of tools and methods such as persona, six-thinking hat or storyboard.

On the other hand, Design Sprint is a methodology for solving problems through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with users in no time. The aim is to create a complete design experience through ideation and testing, cutting out the laborious build and launch phases.

Yet, as announced, DT and DS are closely linked and tend to be used in tandem even without being aware of it. You could even talk about “design thinking sprint”.

Design thinking sprint

Indeed, the DS implements the DT principles and recommends 5 steps over 5 days: grasp the micro and macro environment quickly, brainstorm potential ideas, pick the most promising option, prototype the key features, and validate your solution over time by refining its definition. Thus, we now realize that Design Sprint leverages the spirit of Design Thinking and turns it into an eminently “ready-to-use” practice.

So the next time you innovate, bear these two notions in mind to harness the full power of each and structure your strategy to better cope with limited resources and growing customer needs.


Before concluding, it should be pointed out that DS is not only based on DT, but is also inspired by effective and successful working practices such as Agile, Scrum and Lean. You might even consider Agile as a way of bridging the remaining gap between DS and DT, as it offers a project management path that extends your ability to innovate. Interested? We have a theoretical-practical article on this topic[1].

We would like to leave you with an explicit culinary analogy that will surely speak to those who are fond of good food. It reminds us of the complementarity, but also the distinction, between these two key Innovation constructs: “Design Sprint offers a step-by-step recipe, whereas Design Thinking is the set of possible ingredients, without the recipe”.

Fourman Alexandre

[1] Fourman, A. (2023, December 7). Hackathons: an agile method on steroids: When both developers and customers get “HIGH” in terms of business performance. HeadMind Partners. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from