Design Thinking

Solution-focused research

MIRA supports design thinking approaches to research that focus on finding functional solutions to complex problems in aging.


Design thinking is a formal method of solution-focused thinking. Rather than working to solve a specific problem, it starts with a goal and explores multiple, alternative solutions simultaneously. It is an especially useful method to investigate ill-defined problems where many factors may be unknown. This approach also integrates end users from the project’s outset to ensure all perspectives are considered.

Why design thinking?

Design thinking solutions are found at the intersection of need, possibility and opportunity. MIRA supports the use of design thinking in research to help shift from problem-focused approaches – often adopted by researchers – to the solution-focused approaches adopted by designers.

The design thinking process can be visualized in this linear model (, where empathizing with users is the first step. The designer, or researchers, can then begin to define the problem and ideate possible solutions. Prototyping and testing the product, service or solution is not the end, however – repeating the previous steps, or iterating, is a hallmark of design thinking. Design thinking can enable interdisciplinary approaches to research by providing a framework to iteratively and collaboratively work toward solutions to real-world problems.  

This framework, adapted from Basadur considers most people to be one of four “types” illustrated on their site, and that the innovation process requires one to move clockwise around this matrix. This would be simple for a person to do if they were equally skilled at generating new ideas, conceptualizing and defining problems, creating action plans, and implementing those actions. However, most people are not experts in all of these roles, so bringing together an interdisciplinary team is the approach that MIRA has chosen to support in fostering innovative research that will ultimately benefit older adults and other end users.


Aging resources for researchers, knowledge users and policymakers.

Table with Design Thinking post it notes