Design Thinking…what’s that?

By Hannah Lippe

A while ago, I attended my cousin’s wedding in Seattle where relatives asked me the standard question: ‘So, what do you do for work?’

A few years ago, when I started my journey in Design Thinking at Stanford’s, I would answer this question by stammering through a 10-minute explanation of user-centered design, crazy stokes, and project-based learning.

This was inevitably followed by the blank stares of people who had fallen asleep with their eyes open.

I have now worked on the Design Thinking team at Fidelity Labs for more than a year, and we have seen the impact Design Thinking can achieve. So, at the wedding, when relatives asked me about my job, I had an answer ready. “I create opportunities for people to learn and care more about each other, and I enable people to take risks and try new things.”

This time, people raised their eyebrows and said, “Wow, that sounds really interesting. Tell me more.”

Design Thinking is a human-centered innovation methodology that allows teams to build empathy for users and experiment with many prototypes in the path toward a solution. It gives teams a process and a vocabulary to use when addressing ambiguous problems. Its fundamental value lies not in the number of pipe cleaners used or stokes done in a workshop, but in its ability to change how people approach problems.

Our team believes that the pursuit of new opportunities calls for the adoption of certain mindsets. Our team aims to cultivate a human-centered approach and a culture of prototyping through Design Thinking so that everyone at Fidelity creates the best products and services based on customer need. Fidelity Labs has long held a customer-centered and experimental approach—and Design Thinking helps us to up our game that much more.

Design Thinking is not an easy path, but it is one tool that can be leveraged in this pursuit. Even in the stickiest of problems, a team can rely on conversations with their users to inspire them or on testing a prototype to re-direct them.

To cultivate these mindsets, our Design Thinking team focuses our efforts on:


Coach committed teams to use Design Thinking to tackle human-centered problems.


Provide introductory Design Thinking training to associates.


Foster a community of Design Thinkers across Fidelity.


Connect to thought leaders in Design Thinking and innovation across academic institutions, corporations, and startups.
We evaluate our success as a team on our abilities to create more opportunities for Fidelity associates to learn more about Fidelity’s customers, and to build and test many possible solutions.

While my parents still haven’t figured out how to describe my job to their friends, I hope that you all have a better understanding of what we do and how our team supports driving innovation and creative problem solving throughout Fidelity.