Embracing Design Thinking

Disruptive Innovation is the name of the game in today’s unpredictable and volatile business landscape. Due to the remarkable success rate of design-led companies, design has evolved beyond making objects. Great design has that “wow” factor that makes products more desirable and services more appealing to users. Design-led companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, GE, Nike, Procter & Gamble and Whirlpool have outperformed the S&P 500 over the past 10 years by an extraordinary 219%, according to a 2014 assessment by the Design Management Institute. Its apparent that that in today’s world of user directed and design driven array of businesses like Google, Facebook, Netflix, Uber and so many more, generating and executing new ideas is the only way to embrace the complexity of the changing business scenario.

HBR -September 2015
Source – Harvard Business Review, September 2015

To truly do that, organisations need a bottom up approach to train and create the skill set of creative approach or design thinking in its workforce – It requires a mindset shift. Organisations now want to learn how to think like designers, and apply design principles to the workplace itself. Design thinking is at the core of effective strategy development and organisational change. But, you don’t have to be a designer to think like one. While learning to be a good designer takes years, you can think like a designer and design the way you lead, manage, create and innovate.

Inculcating the culture of design thinking in an organisation requires collective participation and practicing the whole-brain-thinking-process. The whole brain thinking process involves actively incorporating the practice of observing chains of simple and complex (but always associated) cause and reactions in the world around you and incorporating your analysis from different sectors, different audience, and different physicality into the details that contribute towards the creation of your organisation’s product.

Design process
Source – The Squiggle of the Design Process, by Damien Newman  (CC BY-ND 3.0 US)

The process of analysis has to be actively done in a way that stimulates and helps you get insights through :

  • Analytical intelligence or the thinking which will help you frame a business problem. Asking the right questions and creating a laser focussed objective statement for a product or service is important. Analytical intelligence also includes how you evaluate an idea, including critical thinking.
  • Artistic intelligence or the practice of looking at the aesthetic and functional value of a product by using your imagination. It helps to use visual thinking to imagine and intern communicate how you envision the potential of the product or service
  • Operational intelligence or the ability to correctly gauge and plan the implementation of the product or service. It includes planning and organizing or simply put how you turn an idea into action

Most organisations stop at this point and start building but what takes a product or service that extra mile is …

  • Relational intelligence or the ability to envision and forecast how your idea connects or impacts others within a system. It allows you to be more open as you collaborate and co-create with people who will give the end product or service a holistic application on the system. A deep understanding of your product’s impact on the intended (or unintended) audience can be gained through the practice of empathy and keen observation.
Design thinking venn diagram
Design Thinking & Innovation inspired by original diagram by IDEO

These days the practice of design thinking has taken numerous leaps forward, playing a key strategic role in decision-making for companies — enhancing the user experience and delivering value to all stakeholders. Design thinking takes the approach of building ideas from the ground up, to ideate and test solutions for the best possible outcome. Holding a curious mindset is a great starting point to lead yourself and your organisation towards a collective mindset where innovation is explored and cultivated. And the starting point for creating such an approach is to ask questions! Asking questions is one of the best ways to practice a curious mindset—questions that challenge assumptions, inspire others, open up a broader context, and cause reflection.

Source – Design Thinking 1: Insights to Inspiration Course offered by Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

Eventually, the practice of designs thinking ensures that the organisation gains a creative workforce with an approach that make them creative leaders who will not only creatively conceptualise and deliver the products, but lead the product creatively towards success amongst its intended user group effectively – even attracting and creating avenues towards newer markets.