Not All Design Thinking is Created Equal
December 9, 2015
“Design Thinking” describes a process that starts with imagining and progressively defining a new opportunity and ends with the design of solutions that best capitalize on that opportunity. Companies are adopting this way of thinking because they know it provides the straightest line to successful innovation — the lifeblood of every company that wants to grow.
Design thinking isn’t an automatic path to success. Whether companies hire designers or retrain their employees to think like designers, it has to be done right. Based on years of experience and observation, we at Sachs believe three practices are essential to doing it right.
- Design thinking needs to be positioned as an inclusive practice that benefits everyone. Representatives across all relevant functional areas are invited to participate. Silos lead to narrow thinking. Company-wide buy-in leads to harmonious implementation. Regardless of their role, stakeholders have worthy ideas about how to make their organization more agile and innovative. Encourage them to tap into their latent creativity, even color outside the lines. Stakeholder interviews and cross-functional workshops are invaluable when used to generate innovative concepts.
- Inviting consumers into the process at the outset and understanding their thoughts and behaviors ensures “market-in” design. “Know thy future customer” is the first commandment of design thinking. Building concepts before examining the lives of potential customers can be a waste of money and energy. It’s hard to imagine from afar what it’s like to be a first-time mom, a cancer patient, a Boomer planning their smart home or an IP lawyer. Only by identifying the common pain points, needs and wish lists of potential customers can a company know what it's like to walk a mile in their shoes… and design solutions accordingly.
- Don't let fear of failure stand in the way of developing and trying out new ideas. Not every idea will be a winner. You can use learnings gained from “failures” as stepping stones to success.
Design thinking is a key driver in developing significant and timely innovations. Not all design thinking is created equal. For design thinking to be most successful, there must be representation and collaboration from all relevant parts of the company. All design must be informed early on by a deep knowledge of potential customers. Fear of failure must be replaced by fear of not trying things out. Even the most "out there" ideas have kernels of brilliance when thoroughly vetted.