10 Engaging Design Thinking Workshop Activities to Spark Creativity



Introduction to Design Thinking Workshop Activities

Importance of creativity in design thinking

Design thinking is an iterative process that focuses on understanding and addressing users’ needs, and creativity plays a vital role in this process. By incorporating creative thinking into design thinking workshops, participants can explore innovative solutions and approach challenges from fresh perspectives. Creative approaches can inspire new ideas, break through conventional boundaries, and foster out-of-the-box thinking. Therefore, it’s essential to embrace creativity in design thinking workshops to unlock the full potential of the process.

Benefits of incorporating engaging activities in workshops

Design thinking workshops are more than just lectures or presentations. They are interactive sessions that involve hands-on activities to stimulate participants’ engagement and enhance the learning experience. By incorporating engaging activities into workshops, several benefits can be achieved. First, it helps create a relaxed and open environment where participants feel comfortable sharing ideas and collaborating with others. Second, engaging activities facilitate active learning, allowing participants to directly apply design thinking principles and methods. Finally, it makes the workshop more enjoyable, leading to increased motivation and enthusiasm throughout the process.

Icebreaker Activities

Icebreaker activities are an excellent way to kick off a design thinking workshop. These activities help participants break the ice, get to know each other, and create a cooperative atmosphere. Let’s explore two popular icebreaker activities:

Activity 1: “Two Truths and a Lie”

Objective: Introduce participants and create a relaxed atmosphere

In this activity, each participant takes turns sharing two true statements and one false statement about themselves. The other participants then try to guess which statement is the lie. This activity not only allows participants to learn more about each other but also encourages interaction and builds rapport among them.

Activity 2: “The Marshmallow Challenge”

Objective: Foster teamwork and rapid prototyping

The Marshmallow Challenge is a classic design thinking activity that involves teams competing to build the tallest structure using spaghetti, tape, and a marshmallow within a time limit. This activity encourages creative problem-solving, emphasizes the importance of iteration, and provides hands-on experience in rapid prototyping. The activity also helps teams understand the significance of collaboration, communication, and testing ideas through quick iterations.

Ideation Activities

Ideation activities are designed to stimulate idea generation and exploration. These activities encourage participants to think broadly, diverge their thinking, and explore various possibilities. Here are two ideation activities:

Activity 3: “Mind Mapping”

Objective: Stimulate idea generation and exploration

Mind mapping is a powerful technique that allows participants to visually map ideas related to a central topic. Starting with a central idea, participants branch out to capture related sub-ideas and connections. Mind mapping not only helps generate a wealth of ideas but also enables participants to identify relationships between them. This activity encourages participants to think laterally, promotes a broad range of thinking, and provokes new insights.

Activity 4: “Crazy 8s”

Objective: Rapidly generate a variety of ideas within a short timeframe

Crazy 8s is a time-constrained activity that pushes participants to think quickly and generate multiple ideas. Participants sketch eight different ideas related to a specific problem within eight minutes. This activity encourages fast thinking, divergent ideation, and prevents overthinking or getting stuck with a single solution. Crazy 8s helps participants overcome the fear of judgment and facilitates the exploration of various possibilities.

Prototyping Activities

Prototyping activities allow participants to quickly visualize their ideas and transform them into tangible forms. These activities facilitate rapid iteration, testing, and improvement. Let’s explore two popular prototyping activities:

Activity 5: “Paper Prototyping”

Objective: Facilitate quick and low-cost visualization of ideas

Paper prototyping is a straightforward yet effective activity where participants create physical prototypes using paper, scissors, and other available materials. This activity enables quick visualization of ideas, making them tangible and easier to understand. Paper prototypes are inexpensive, easy to create, and encourage feedback and iteration. They provide valuable insights into the practicality and usability of the ideas, allowing participants to refine and improve their solutions.

Activity 6: “Role-Playing”

Objective: Encourage participants to step into the shoes of users and empathize with their needs

Role-playing is an interactive activity in which participants act out scenarios as users, designers, or other stakeholders. This activity allows participants to experience the product or service from the user’s perspective and gain a deeper understanding of their needs and pain points. Role-playing helps participants empathize with users, stimulates user-centered thinking, and encourages the design of solutions that truly address user requirements.

Evaluation Activities

Evaluation activities are essential in assessing ideas, prioritizing solutions, and improving the design. These activities provide participants with a structured approach to gather feedback, refine their solutions, and make informed decisions. Let’s explore two evaluation activities:

Activity 7: “Dot Voting”

Objective: Prioritize ideas and identify the most promising solutions

Dot voting is a quick and effective way to gather opinions and prioritize ideas. Participants are given a limited number of dot stickers which they can place on the ideas they find most valuable or relevant. This activity visually represents the collective opinions and allows participants to focus their attention on high-potential ideas. Dot voting helps identify popular solutions and guides the selection process for further development.

Activity 8: “Speed Critique”

Objective: Facilitate constructive feedback and stimulate critical thinking

Speed critique is a time-constrained activity in which participants provide concise feedback on a prototype within a limited time frame. This activity encourages participants to think critically, provide constructive feedback, and highlight strengths and weaknesses of the design solutions. Speed critique stimulates rapid iteration and improvement by identifying areas for refinement and enhancement.


Incorporating engaging workshop activities in design thinking workshops is crucial to maximize the potential of the process. These activities not only create a relaxed and enjoyable environment but also foster creativity, active learning, and collaboration among participants. From icebreaker activities to evaluation activities, each stage of the design thinking process can benefit from thoughtfully chosen activities. By encouraging participants to think laterally, prototype their ideas, and gather feedback, design thinking workshops become catalysts for innovation and problem-solving. So, next time you’re planning a design thinking workshop, be sure to incorporate these engaging activities to enhance the overall learning experience and maximize the outcomes.

[1] Brown, T. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, 86(6), 2008.
[2] Martin, R. The Design of Business. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.


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