I attended Design Thinking for Entrepreneurs: In Partnership with Capital One this week. This blog will tell you a step by step process of how Design Thinking for Entrepreneurs works, I am sharing everything I learned in a step by step process.


The scenario we will use as an example is “Metro System” we all use and to be more specific the DC metro system. So imagine yourself as WMATA employee for this and wear the design thinker hat and follow the step by step process to get started.

We are trying to learn from them about their experience which they have while using the metro.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of people. We need a goal in mind that let’s build something they want not what we want. We use to:

  • Solve complex, ambiguous human problems
  • Build new products/experiences for your customers
  • Make existing products/experiences better
  • Make strategic decisions
  • Tell your company’s story
  • Influence stakeholders/prospective investors

How to do Empathy

There are three ways you can do an empathy:

  1. Interview Customers: Empathy Interviews
  2. Live their Experience: Walk-a-Mile
  3. Observe People: Be a fly on the wall

Depending on what your scenario is you have to choose a proper way to conduct empathy. Maybe using more than one way works in your scenario but for the scenario, we are using we only need to Interview Customers but we can also go 2 ways one is to observe people and interview people and than combine both to get something out of it.

Talk to People: Empathy Interviews

For interview customers, you need to prepare an interview guide in advance. When you approach your customer introduce yourself and your purpose of why you are doing this. The questions you’ll be preparing make sure you don’t focus on only YES or NO but focus on WHY of a question.

  • Prepare an interview guide in advance.
  • Introduce yourself and the purpose. Obtain consent.
  • Build rapport and start with easy questions.
  • Listen carefully and thank each participant.

PRO TIP: There might be some scenarios where customers can take a long silence in which they are thinking try not to speak at that moment and use this silence as your ally because saying something at that point will interrupt what they are thinking and they’ll use your point instead.

  • Ask open-ended questions. Ask Why?
  • Probe when something piques your interest
  • Press people into sharing stories
  • Resist the urge to speak. use silence as your ally
  • Have a partner take verbatim notes

Anatomy of an Interview

A good empathy interview is thoughtful with a strong arc

Let’s Practice

Interview Guide: Plan for interview guide plan during a design thinking process.

Here are some points to consider when you are doing an interview:

  • Speak slow and utter the words clearly.
  • Build up a story with their story. if they tell you something and you’ve experienced the same you can say yes I’ve had this same experience when I was… etc.
  • Recap conversation – Not necessary but just to make sure because by the end of your conversation it’s normal for them to forget some points when they mentioned during the flow of conversation. But it’s a good way to ask them is that it or if there is anything else they would like to add.
  • Make sure 2 people interview one person. One will be asking questions and other will be only taking notes.

Some questions that come to my mind when I was doing this exercise were:

Tell me about your normal day. (I already know they travel via metro)
What do you use metro for and how often?
Tell me about a time when you had great experience and what made it so great?
Tell me about a time when you had bad experience and what made it bad?

So for me, this is what preparing an interview guide in advance would look like. The conversation might take a different turn from these questions but it’s a good thing. This is why your observation in this matter is the key that’ll take you in a right direction. Here is a collage of pictures that shows some keen observation points:

Keep in mind the difference between What people say vs What people do. This is important because if you give people confidence to speak they might be real with you or they might not. Think of it like people can say things just to make you happy but that is not in favor of us here.

Make sure you tell them that you are recording or taking notes of this. Come up with innovative ways to do it. Like for example, a simple QnA might be boring so a good example would be to as they write a love letter and a breakup letter to the product. Like if you were to write a breakup letter to NetFlix here is how it would go:

Dearest Netflix,
Why do you think I want to watch Toddlers and Tiaras? I thought after all this time together, you would know me but you don’t get me at all. I have wasted too much time browsing your mediocre offerings, and I’m done. It’s not me, it’s you. You just don’t see me. I don’t have time to wait around for you to get upgraded—my digital clock is ticking. Don’t show up in my mailbox or Xbox again. You’re the worst.




P.S. I’ve been cheating on you with Amazon Instant Video. And PBS.com

There is a lot of learning points here which we can use. The key to a good interview is to take tons of notes, write down everything and make sense of it later.

Some other ways to gain user time is to offer them something like we will have a give away of you can give us some of your time and by the time you’re done interviewing them give them a $5 gift card or something else.

You can also do group interviews but it is highly preferred to conduct them with individual people. During your intro, this was mentioned by one of the CapitalOne employees that don’t tell them that you are a student (some people don’t take students seriously). Approach them by saying I’m a researched and trying to learn something. It all depends on your goal which you have in mind.

There are lots of other ways to build empathy:

Photo/written diary

Give users a journal and/or camera, ask them to take a picture and/or record their thoughts/feelings every time they perform a task in their normal daily lives


Sending out surveys allows you to collect more data points than you could normally interview, but makes it difficult to ask to follow up questions


Follow participant as they perform a task and ask them to self-narrate out loud, try and keep questions to the end to minimize interruptions

Secondary research

News/entertainment, academic journals, social media, and self-immersion (put yourself in their shoes) aid in your research to build the understanding of your end user

So to summarize all of this we have only talked about this: Take TONS of notes — write down everything you can now and make sense of it later. Usually, it’s easier to have someone as a designated “note-taker” with you.


A journey map is a visualization of research that captures experience over time. Journey map helps you understand the customer’s perspective from start to finish of whatever experience you’re trying to understand or document.

When you create the journey maps, it’s important to identify the biggest knowledge or emotional gaps customers experience – in those are the opportunities to come up with solutions for your business to address these pain points to make your customers lives better. You don’t want to discover the pain after building something – you want to know the pain up front and build something to solve it

Design solutions (and experiences) that deliver  value to both the customer and to the organization

Review: Two purposes for Journey Maps

These two can be combined into a single document or used independently.

  1. Create a model for a Target Experience: Design the experience conceptually before you design the product
  2. Understand the Complexity of an Existing Unfamiliar Process: Understand the context and pain points before you design anything to remedy it or serve that population.

So how do you actually create a journey map? There’s a flexible framework for how you can create one. Blue post its are representing steps in the customer’s journey – each is a unique activity that the customer takes in the process.

Under the process steps, you document the insights that you’ve learned about your customers – the insights could be the customer’s emotions, what they’re seeing/doing, facts, details about what’s happening; each post-it should be unique and apply to the step it falls under. We’ll show you some specific examples of this in a moment.

After you’ve laid out your insights, you should identify the customers high and low points; where are their emotions the best? Where are they the worst? This will help you identify opportunities there are to solve problems for the customer.

We’ve identified the biggest pain point as a conceptual example – this could be something you’ve observed in an empathy interview.

Journey maps can take MANY forms – this represents a feedback loop. Also, This is a very detailed/complex journey map that’s in a similar format to our framework. The VA hospital has journey mapped their patient’s experience from scheduling a visit to follow-up care. They identified positive elements of the experience, which they want to amplify, and negative elements of the experience, which they want to fix. Under each process step, they’ve outlined their key takeaway based on their findings.

Our WMATA Example

TO do the Journey Mapping of our WMATA you need to:

  1. Best if you do with more people like in a team.
  2. Select a character who uses the metro and give them a background story (Ex: tourist, student, local commuter, physical limitations)
  3. Build a journey map through their experience (including pain and pleasure points)
  4. Identify top 2 areas of opportunity on your map

As you have notes from the empathy steps you need to make a story or journey out of it. Based on our scenario one journey would be the start of the day for a person and then use the metro to get to the place and one more can be to get back home from work.

You need to create a model for a target experience. For an example here I’m taking an experience which happened with a single mom with three kids. Every morning she has to wake up at around 6 AM and make breakfast and usually at 6:30 PM she wakes up here children and between 7 to 7:15 they have to rush to the metro which is 15 minutes walk from their house. Then when she boards train she has to change to different line to drop her children to school then rush to metro again to reach office.

Based on this scenario I’ve asked her a lot of questions and underlined more important points in my notes and now I’m making a journey map of it:

ORANGE stickies are the main nodes (picked from the interview) and GREY stickies are the points that fall under the main nodes (also picked from the interview). REDs are the pain points or negative points and GREENs are the positive points or pleasure points. This is a very small example of the journey map the list can go on and on.


This step is focused on a systematic approach to turning your research into action.

  • Define the problem
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Evaluate and prioritize your ideas
  • Prototype and iterate

Define & Understand the Problem

This consist of three things:

  • Unpack your research
    Layout and discuss your research as a team
  • Group by themes
    Physically move around, and title your groupings
  • Come up with insights
    Take a leap to explain your findings

PRO TIP: Refine your titles so they tell a meaningful story:
First-pass group title: “Banker training”

Final group title: “Banker mortgage training only occurs during onboarding and is normally forgotten over time”

As you’re unpacking, the team is all standing together. One team member will read out their sticky note. Another team member will build off of that (“I saw that too”). All members write any surprises, tensions, or questions they have on another sticky note.

Keep going until all stickies are done. Then, cluster them into groups. Not all sticky notes will fit in a cluster. That’s ok. Refine your clusters! If they’re too big, break them up into smaller sub-themes. If they’re too small, group them. Asking “how?” can help narrow, and asking “why?” can help broaden


One story/comment/quote per sticky note. Write in sharpie and in ALL CAPS. Capture details rather than generalizations – top stories, facts, quotes (QUOTES are the best).

Take a leap to explain some of your findings. Focus on surprises, tensions, and/or contradictions to create a Point of View.

The formula to calculate Point of view (POV) is:

__Your User__ needs (a way) to __What they need__ because (or so/so that) __Insight__

A single mom of three young children needs a way to entertain her rambunctious children on the metro because otherwise the “annoying little brats” irritate fellow commuters.

The key to successful brainstorming is Energy.

Use your POV to come up with ideation prompts.

How might we (HMW)…

Amp up the good?

HMW use the kid’s energy to entertain fellow commuters?

Remove the bad?

HMW separate the kids from fellow commuters?

Explore opposites?

HMW make the wait the most exciting part of the trip?

Identify unexpected resources?

HMW leverage free time of fellow commuters to share the load?

Change the status quo?

HMW make playful, loud kids less annoying?


Triggers mean thinking big like How would Google/Oprah/Trump do it? What if it had to cost a million dollars? one dollar? What if it had to be digital? Analog? What if it had to be round? What of it had to take an hour? A week?

Brainstorming PRO TIPS

“Yes, and”: build off of each other to come up with even more ideas

Focus on quantity, not quality: now is not the time for evaluation

Encourage wild ideas: there might be a nugget of feasibility in even the craziest ideas

There are many ways to help pick the top ideas

You are at a point of narrowing your focus. Here are some of the ways you can pick top ideas:

  1. VOTE: Organize your ideas and give everyone stickers. Vote on easiest to implement best meets customer need, and most breakthrough or delightful.
  2. MATRIX: Visually map the ideas in a 2×2 grid.
  3. RATE BY CRITERIA: Come up with human, business, and tech criteria and rate each idea by how well it fulfills each.

Play it by ear based on time – if time, have them work on ONE idea they came up with, and then determine how they could use prototyping to test their assumptions. Download this IDEA DASHBOARD for this purpose.


Prototyping is also called building to think. It brings your ideas to life quickly and cheaply to get feedback from your users.

What’s your ideal prototype vs what can you do right now?

Think hours and days, not weeks and months. You want to learn as fast as possible.

Iterate as you get feedback and build higher fidelity versions

Identify a variable – each prototype should answer a particular question you want to test

Examples from Capital One:

Banking On Demand – Cash delivery idea – too risky to test with customers / high level of investment to build the UI, so the R&D team ran an associate pilot to collect feedback on the concept itself to see if it’s valuable and what logistics need to be considered

Shopping prototype – higher fidelity – Card R&D team built a UI where customers could order something without paying for it until they receive it and decide they want to keep it. In reality, associates were on the back end buying the items with their own corporate cards and shipping to the customer and then handling the returns.

Lastly, any info they can provide about their business/questions will help us pair the right associate.

Not structured teaching – the person you speak with will be ready to help answer your questions, collaborate/ideate, and help you figure out the best way to apply empathy and design thinking to your business.

That’s the major four steps that are included in design thinking. There is so much more to it but main steps are defined in this article in details.

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