One thing I was consistently exposed to at the Design Council was the design process. The Design Council has their own design process framework, shown above, that illustrates the divergent/convergent stages of design thinking. Broken down into four distinct phases, the process moves through 'discover', 'define', 'develop' and 'deliver', each one representing either a divergent or convergent stage of the design development process:
'Discover' - the initial stage of the process inspired by an idea. At this point, research is critical in order to gain a deep understanding of the needs of the project. Methods such as market/user research and design research groups are often used.
'Define' - the project research is formed into a 'problem', which is then aligned with business strategy. A design brief is developed and signed off on. Some solutions are explored and prototyped.
'Develop' - one or more of the concepts identified during the 'define' stage is selected for further development. More in-depth prototyping and iterating of solutions takes place.
'Deliver' - the final stage. The design solution is thoroughly tested and signed-off on. It is released to its audience. After launch, evaluation takes place.
Read more about research into the design process used by major brands here, in the Design Council's 'Eleven Lessons' report. There's some pretty fascinating stuff on design methods undertaken by these international brands, plus insights on how they apply design within their companies and products.