Design Thinking– Strategic Framework for Innovation and Growth or Regurgitation of Old Concepts…

Design thinking runs far deeper than aesthetics…. If you are mapping out a sales strategy, or streamlining a manufacturing operation, or crafting a new system for innovating… you are engaged in the practice of design. ~Bill Breen

Some experts say that design thinking can enrich business and marketing innovation by combining the best of right and left brain thinking. It has the capacity to deliver better ideas, with more relevance… For example; focusing on individuals, moments and journeys in ethnography, insights become deeper; embracing chaos and play in brainstorms, creative teams can explore further; iterating and early prototyping, ideas become real and develop more rapidly…

According to ‘Boston Consulting Group’ report– 7 out of 10 senior executives name innovation as their top priority for growth… However, according to Ben Wood and colleagues; too often the so-called innovation is just rearrangement of  existing offer (a renovation), or it fails altogether. According to Doblin Group; 96% of all new projects fail to meet or beat targets for ROI. Some experts say the answer to wasted investment may come from world of design thinking…

Design thinking is a methodology for the practical, creative resolution of problems or issues…. it’s a form of solution-based or solution-focus thinking that starts with the goal or what is meant to be achieved, instead of starting with the problem. This differs from the scientific method, which starts with defining all parameters of problems in order to define the solutions. Wikipedia definition; design thinking is method and process for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring data and information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields.

Design thinking is a creative process based around the building up of ideas and encourages ‘outside the box’ thinking, which can often lead to creative solutions. According to Peter Merholz; not-so-secret truth about design thinking is that a big chunk is actually social science thinking. Design thinkers talk about being ‘human-centered and empathic’, which are methods from anthropology and sociology.

Although, varied disciplinary backgrounds do, in fact, allow people to bring distinct perspectives to innovation, allowing for insights that wouldn’t be otherwise achieved. However, shifting focus entirely to design thinking means you are missing out on other countless possibility. On positive side according to John Miziolek; impact is undeniable when a company like Apple puts so much extra effort into making its products and marketing look ‘cool’, as well as, ensuring its ‘look’ is unified and communicates the level of innovation that an organization prides itself on.

However, very few companies can put that kind of design thinking at top (or even near the top) of their corporate agendas, even though an overall organizational design implementation can provide incredible benefits….

In the article Design Thinking by Roger Martin writes: Design thinking is a balance between analytical thinking and intuitive thinking, which enables organizations to both exploit existing and create new knowledge. Design thinking organizations are capable of effectively advancing knowledge from mystery-to-heuristic-to-algorithm, gaining a cost advantage over its competitors along the way. With that cost advantage, it can redirect its design thinking capacity to solve the next important mystery, and advance still further ahead of its competitors. In this way, the design thinking organization is capable of achieving lasting and regenerating competitive advantage…

Companies tend to be ruled by analytical thinking, however, by integrating the best of intuitive thinking into their thinking pattern– these are typically the thinking pattern of artists and designers– companies can improve their creative skills. Analytical thinkers tend to often see creative people as potentially useful, but also quite scary because they don’t understand how creative people think...

Similarly, creative people tend to often see business people as closed to new and potentially powerful ways of looking at things. As consequence, neither side understands that they need each other’s unique capabilities… Design thinking helps bridge that gap with processes that facilitate communication and collaboration within the group…

In the article Design Thinking by Tim Brown writes: Historically, design has been treated as a downstream step in the development process– the point where designers, who have played no earlier role in the substantive work of innovation, come along and put a beautiful wrapper around the idea. However, things have changed; rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires. The former role is tactical and results in limited value creation; the latter is strategic and leads to dramatic new forms of value.

Moreover, as economies in developed world shift from industrial manufacturing to knowledge work and service delivery, the innovation terrain is expanding. Its objectives are no longer just physical products; they are new sorts of processes, services, IT-powered interactions, entertainments, and ways of communicating and collaborating– exactly the kinds of human-centered activities in which design thinking can make a decisive difference…

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need to behave weirdly to be a design thinker. Nor are design thinkers necessarily created only by design schools, even though most professionals have had some kind of design training…The myth of creative genius is resilient: We have come to believe that great ideas pop fully formed out of brilliant minds, in feats of imagination well beyond the abilities of mere mortals. But in most cases, it’s neither sudden breakthrough nor lightning strike of genius; it’s result of hard work augmented by a creative human-centered discovery process and followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing, and refinement.

The design process is best described, metaphorically, as a system of spaces rather than predefined series of orderly steps. Where the spaces demarcate different sorts of related activities that together form the continuum of innovation. Design thinking can feel chaotic to those experiencing it the first time but over life of a project– users come to see that the process actually achieves results even though its architecture differs from the linear, milestone based processes typical of other kinds of business activities…

Many of the world’s most successful brands create breakthrough ideas that are inspired by a deep understanding of consumers’ lives and use the principles of design to innovate and build value. Also, sometimes innovation has to account for vast differences in cultural and socioeconomic conditions… design thinking can suggest creative alternatives to the assumptions made in developed societies…

In the article Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment by Bruce Nussbaum writes: Design thinking has given the design profession and society at large all the benefits it has to offer and is beginning to ossify and actually do harm. Design thinking originally offered the world of big business– which is defined by a culture of process efficiency– a new process that promised to deliver creativity. By packaging creativity within a process format, designers were able to expand their engagement, impact, and sales inside the corporate world.

Companies were comfortable and welcoming to design thinking because it was packaged as a process. There were many successes, but far too many more failures in this endeavor. Why? Companies absorbed process of design thinking all to well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation.

Call it N+1 innovation. CEOs in particular, took to the process side of design thinking, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based process. Design thinking made design system-conscious at a key moment in time. But it was creativity that design thinking was supposed to deliver, and it falls short…

Business must show healthy organic growth to survive-prosper, and design thinking, for some, can make that happen… According to Tom Post; design thinking is not about magic – it’s about generating practical, value-creating ideas and translating them into real market applications that drive growth.

However, while design needn’t be magic, it’s exasperatingly messy in practice. In large organizations, we tend to value order and control above all else – and we structure our organization and processes to produce it. In business, ambiguity-uncertainty is uncomfortable; we crave predictability and order, but growth is about creating new value, and once we accept the messy reality that behavior is driven by more than economic logic, we have no choice but to accept the messiness that is, in fact, humanness.

So design thinking is messy – there is no way around it. Part of this has to do with the kinds of problems that design is especially good at. These problems are often messy – or ‘wicked’ as ‘Hoerst Rittel’ labeled many problems of design. Wicked (as opposed to ‘tame’ problems) have multiple stakeholders involved – who usually can’t agree on definition of the problem, much less its solution…

According to Glenn Fajardo, John Rehm, & Kal Joffres; design thinking theory is great, but getting to implementation is often difficult. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle, it’s experiential. You cannot learn it just by having someone explain it to you– you have to actually try it yourself to find your own balance.

Also, you must practice it to get better, and increase your understanding by observing and interacting with more advanced practitioners– in this way, it’s social. You enhance your understanding by practicing with peers, sharing perspectives, and giving each other feedback. This learning combination of the experiential and the social means thinking of ‘design as craft’ rather than, design as a codified process or design as an outcome.

According to venessa miemis; design thinking is about interaction between feasibility (what is functionally possible in foreseeable future); viability (what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model); and desirability (what makes sense to people and for people), with an emphasis on ‘the people’ for which the product or service is being designed. So whether you hope to employ design thinking to restructure the culture of an organization or innovating a new product or service, it’s important to remember that it’s more than a set of simple tactics that can be implemented overnight.

It’s more like a new ecology of mind that takes time to grow, adapt, and evolve. It still requires adherence to sound business decision-making, but also commitment to challenge one’s own beliefs about ‘the way things work’ by focusing-on people’s unspoken and unmet needs…