Design Thinking Before the Pitch

Series: The art of pitching

20 June 2019

How can a designers’ way of thinking help entrepreneurs put themselves in their customers’ or users’ shoes, to find the best solutions to their problems? That’s the core thought behind Design Thinking. Industrial designer, Patrick Messier, CEO of Messier Designers explains how building your pitch with this approach can benefit you.

How can this approach be used to build your business presentation (pitch)?

Design Thinking (DT) is an empathetic process that allows you to problem solve by getting closer to people. You must meet with people to understand their real needs, their concerns, and their frustrations.

Initially, entrepreneurs are empathetic: they founded a business based on a solution to a problem, but as the company grows and things become structured, they tend to lose their empathetic quality. Design Thinking can allow them to reconnect with key consumers, and come up with relevant solutions to help them


This approach will also help justify their existence, their “Why”, as Simon Senek put it. Once they find that, they have a clear vision, a guiding light for everyone in their organization.

Then, it’s possible to create your pitch in three phases:

  1. present the problem
  2. present the solution and
  3. present the benefits that will result from it

Sometimes, business leaders redefine their entire business model after taking the DT approach. Does that mean you should be ready to reconsider everything?

Absolutely. Entrepreneurs sometimes have trouble letting go. When we enter a DT process, we have to accept that we may have been wrong all along, and that can be hard on the ego. Entrepreneurs must then ask themselves: what is more important: being right or taking my company to the next level to ensure longevity, performance, and profitability?

Does the DT process come before the development of all strong pitches?

The storytelling we so often brag about when it comes to pitches has been developed by marketing agencies. They tell stories that are so obviously romanticized. The problem with this approach is that it oversells the idea, then the product/service doesn’t deliver.

The advantage of DT is that it defines a problem in an intuitive way, and finds ideas that are based on what was discovered in the field. The storytelling is then backed up by empathy, prototyping, testing and adjusting the product/service.

In your opinion, what’s the most common mistake SME owners make during their pitch?

Not having a common theme throughout the pitch. This shows that the company or entrepreneur doesn’t understand the value of their product or service. It happens often, and it reveals that the customer’s needs are not properly understood.


What is your role during the Parcours Innovation PME Montréal?

I co-facilitate the Innovation, design thinking & value creation training. It is given over three days. The first two alternate between theory and hands-on workshops. There is a six week period between day 1, and day 3, during which entrepreneurs meet with their key consumers to better understand their reality. They come back with a lot of ideas on how to modify their way of doing things in the future. One participant came back crying because she realized she was not helping her clients. Subsequently, she made an incredible change in her organization. The process also allows you to get closer to your employees and better understand what they are doing on a daily basis, before, during and after work. The company can then accommodate them better, which helps with retention, and attracting new talent, among other things.

Design Thinking in a nutshell…

Developed at Stanford, in 1980, Design Thinking is a process inspired by the designers’ approach to solve a problem, or develop an innovative project that is based on the needs of users. Learn more.

About the author

Mélissa Proulx

About Mélissa Proulx


Mélissa Proulx is a journalist, news contributor, and copywriter. Passion and creativity have been driving her to create rich and diverse journalistic content since 2002.