6D Thinking vs. Design Thinking

Srikanth Talluri
4 min readAug 14, 2023

Any Thinking framework ultimately converges to our biological neural engine, but the I/O factors within the respective frameworks influence their effectiveness to the scope

A brief comparison between the two Unique Frameworks of Problem Solving has been presented here for your high-level understanding .

Both 6D Thinking and Design Thinking are structured approaches to problem-solving, but they have distinct characteristics and methodologies.

Here’s how they differ:

6D Thinking:

1. Dimensions: 6D Thinking focuses on six dimensions of Work – Discover, Define, Design, Derive, Develop, and Deliver. Each dimension is composed or decomposed using a 3E lens which includes Emotions, Experiences and Elements, which form the fundamental building blocks of any system or solution.

2. Customer-Centric: 6D Thinking values the customer’s perspective and ensures the solution addresses their needs, it goes beyond just the user experience.

3. Relationship-Centric: Emphasizes building and maintaining healthy relationships not only with customers but also with partners and other stakeholders. This approach ensures the solution is sustainable and valuable for all involved parties.

4. Holistic Approach: 6D Thinking encourages a holistic view of problem-solving, considering not only creative ideation and empathy driven user experience, but also practical considerations like resource availability, cost, and alignment with reality. 6D thinking involves customer, operations and partner (COP) dimensions into the solution (not customer-centric alone).

5. Structured Evaluation: In the “Derive” phase of 6D Thinking, solutions are evaluated based on COP influenced – Desirability, Viability, and Reality factors. This evaluation helps ensure that solutions are not only creative but also feasible and aligned with the real-world context. 6D Thinking is executed in iterative, linear as well as in sequence-change mode. (like any car gear – manual or automatic)

Design Thinking:

1. Empathy-Centered: Design Thinking places a strong emphasis on understanding the needs and emotions of the end-users. It often begins with empathizing with users to gain insights into their perspectives and experiences. The primary focus is on empathizing with the end user, understanding their needs, pain points, and aspirations. The solutions are tailored to enhance the user experience.

2. Deep Empathy: The first stage, “Empathize,” is all about immersing oneself in the user’s environment to get a deep understanding. This sets the foundation for the entire process.

3. User-Centric: Design Thinking prioritizes the end-user throughout the process. Solutions are developed with the user’s needs and preferences in mind, aiming to create products or services that resonate deeply with them.

4. Iterative Process: Design Thinking is characterized by an iterative process of problem-solving. It involves stages like Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test, which are often cycled through multiple times to refine solutions based on user feedback.


  1. Depth of Engagement: While Design Thinking deeply immerses itself in the user’s world, 6D Thinking considers a broader set of stakeholders, making sure the solution is viable and sustainable in a more comprehensive ecosystem.

2. Focus of Solution: Design Thinking primarily aims to enhance user experience and satisfaction. In contrast, 6D Thinking aims to create solutions that satisfy customers and are also sustainable in the long term by considering operational and partner dynamics.

3. Sustainability: 6D Thinking explicitly emphasizes the sustainability of solutions by ensuring alignment and harmony among all stakeholders, whereas Design Thinking achieves sustainability through continuous iterations based on user feedback.

While both approaches offer valuable tools for problem-solving and innovation, the primary differences lie in their structure and emphasis.

6D Thinking provides a more comprehensive framework that includes customer, operational and partner centric approach, practical considerations like resource availability and alignment with reality, while Design Thinking places a strong focus on empathizing with users and creating user-centric proof-of-concept solutions through an iterative process.

To encapsulate:

  • 6D Thinking is a more expansive approach, capturing multiple viewpoints (customers, partners, and operations) and ensuring solutions are robustly vetted. Its adaptability in modes of execution provides teams with the flexibility to pivot according to the demands of a project. The inclusion of the 3E lens also ensures a thorough analysis and understanding of a problem from an emotional, experiential, and elemental perspective.
  • Design Thinking, with its origins in the design world, concentrates on deeply understanding the end-user. The iterative nature of prototyping and testing ensures that solutions are refined continuously based on feedback. While it does have flexibility and an iterative approach, its primary focus remains the user.

In projects where user needs and rapid prototyping are the focal points, Design Thinking shines. But when a project requires a broader view encompassing not only the user but also the intricacies of operations and partnerships, 6D Thinking might be more appropriate.

In conclusion, while both methodologies are customer-focused, 6D Thinking goes a step further by ensuring the solution is also relationship-centric, accounting for the larger ecosystem in which the solution will exist.

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Srikanth Talluri

6D Thinker, Researcher, Learner, Edupreneur, Changemaker, Foodie, Storyteller & Family man. Creating a neo-educational ecosystem for 21st century culture