Generally speaking, a design thinking process is a great idea. I've lived by it my entire career, but I've found that building a toolkit that's flexible and adaptable, then pulling out just the tools needed, when they're needed, give me better results, faster. That said, in solving design problems, I almost always go through the process below in some fashion, but the specific tools almost always vary. And while the design thinking process looks linear, neat and tidy, it's anything but. Steps blur together, learning new information can make you jump back one or more steps, and sometimes it's helpful to jump ahead to, say, test an idea before you even prototype it.
Gain an empathetic understanding of the problem. Talk to experts, stakeholders, and most importantly, the people you're solving the problem for. Observe, engage and empathize with people to understand their needs, motivations, and experiences. The better the understanding at this stage, the better the results will be down the road.
At this stage, it's important to unpack what was learned in the Empathize step in order to develop an understanding of the users and the problem you're solving. An actionable point of view gives you a strong platform for ideation.
At this stage, I generate as many ideas as possible. Getting ideas from outside sources, fellow team members or any fellow design thinkers is a great way to explore solutions.
Whether it's simply a paper prototype or full-fledged HTML-based interactive prototype, it's a great tool to get in front of people. I prefer lightweight, fast prototypes to be able to iterate quickly on feedback.
Go back to the people you interviewed, show them your prototypes and get feedback. Does your solution meet their needs? Has it improved the experince for them?
Put the vision into effect! Also known as "Design Doing", this step is crucial to creating an engaging and delightful experience. My job isn't done when the idea is complete, getting the product into people's hands is the only way to create meaningful experiences.
And of course, even when the product is released, I find it important to reflect on the process, on the experience just created, and when possible, go back to the beginning to make the experience even better.