Essay 

Jim Antonopoulos

Director of Strategy,
Tank

Patrick Eckel
CEO, DigIO

Read more essays

Essay 

Jim Antonopoulos

Director of Strategy,
Tank

Patrick Eckel
CEO, DigIO

Read more essays

Essay 

Jim Antonopoulos

Director of Strategy,
Tank

Patrick Eckel
CEO, DigIO

Read more essays

Essay 

Jim Antonopoulos

Director of Strategy,
Tank

Patrick Eckel
CEO, DigIO

Read more essays

Design Thinking. The key ingredient for innovation.

Design Thinking. The key ingredient for innovation.

Design Thinking. The key ingredient for innovation.

Design Thinking.
The key ingredient for innovation.

Design Thinking. The key ingredient for innovation.

"When you remove the conversation's limits, what you lose in certainty, you gain in possibility."

– Design Management Institute, Boston

The revolution

We are at the dawn of a revolution.

Digital manufacturing, autonomous, clever machines and software, artificially intelligent devices, new production processes, connected utility systems like we’ve never seen before.

Nanotechnology now allows us to create bandages that help heal cuts.

Rockets can deliver payloads in orbit and return safely to Earth.

The internet in our pockets, on our wrist and in our homes. It is now a multi-layered, multi-tiered system that connects everything in our daily lives.

The customer experience is now one of the primary mandates of the C Suite and design-led cultures are growing rapidly within organisations.

This wave of change will grow in size and become more intricate in its nature — and organisational leaders will need to embrace methods to better understand and solve the more complex problems that will arise. 

These problems will need to be solved with the end user or customer in mind requiring a different kind of leadership sensibility and a set of tools that enable executive teams, partners and employees to go from problem to validated solution, rapidly.

Leadership teams around the globe acknowledge the need to uncover the unmet needs of customers and create customer-obsessed teams within their organisations — the need to encourage innovation instead of hindering it is high on the agenda.

Looking back

In the 1960s, both scholars and professionals started realising that a vital component of the innovation ecosystem was missing – a method to innovate. 

Architecture and engineering were the first to struggle in adapting to the fast-paced environment of the post-World War II world. World War II gave a boost to strategic thinking in many fields but there was no consistent method to apply this type of thinking in every sphere of life.

Called the “design science decade”, the 60s gave birth to a new design system that aimed at unveiling how design works, solving problems that politics and economics are unable to resolve.  At the time, Horst Rittel coined the term “Wicked Problems”. Problems which lie at the heart of Design Thinking. These problems represented complex and multidimensional issues that were best solved by applying the principles of Design Thinking; collaboration, co-creation, cross-functional teams and an empathy for the needs of users.

“Sciences of the Artificial” is a book by computer researcher and Nobel Prize winner Herbert A. Simon who, during the 1970s, was the first scholar describing design as both a science and a way of thinking. 

Rapid Prototyping of products and services and then testing them through observation as simple as it sounds today, was revolutionary in Mr. Simon’s time. His ideas established one of the key tenants of Design Thinking.

In his “Designerly ways of knowing” research paper and book, Nigel Cross in 1982 introduced Design Thinking to everyday problems people solve in their life. Cross compared designers’ problems to non-design ones, finding a good number of similarities and ways to apply Design Thinking to everyday problems. He argued that a central figure of design activity is to find a satisfactory solution as quickly as possible, not analysing the problem for a long time — providing a framework for the rapid generation of ideas and prototypes and of course, just-enough and just-in-time research.

The insights learnt from decades of research and learning has helped shape what Design Thinking is today. 

A new type of value from design thinking

For those organisations that think like designers, regularly meet the unmet needs of consumers and in turn, out perform organisations that don’t embrace innovation practices within their businesses.

IBM, Apple, Netflix, Tesla, GE, Nike, Disney and P&G are a very small sample of a very long list.

Design as a process to better understand customer needs and in turn, develop solutions for the challenges these customers are facing, is an often misunderstood principle and methodology.

Design thinking methods provide value through their simple ability to create solutions that meet three key principles:

  1. Desirability, based on customer needs
  2. Viability, based on business needs; and 
  3. Feasibility, based on the availability of operational resources

This, often called ‘the innovation sweet spot’ offers the perfect framework for us to better understand the needs of the people we’re creating for, develop the right ideas and test them for viability over the long term.

Providing an incomparable value and loyalty from the people we design for — and we know all too well that customer and employee loyalty are the single most important competitive advantages in business today.

"If research is the discipline of understanding the world, design is the discipline of shaping it. While research asks, "what is", design asks "what should be?".

– IBM

A method for innovation 

IBM ‘understand the present, envision the future in a continuous cycle of observing, reflecting and making’ through their Loop framework. 

A simplified and proprietary rendition of the design thinking methodology. 

IBM’s focus, like ours, focusses on outcomes for users and their needs. It iterates continuously and in turn, learns and adapts. It embraces cross-functional teams and allows these teams to act, deliver and reimagine future states in a nimble and effective manner.

Through embracing design, this leader of 20th Century technology (and beyond) encourages divergent thinking — taking our blinkers off, getting out of the building and talking to users.

This ambiguity and ability to develop empathy has lead this organisation to innovate its internal practices to focus on outcomes and delivery on an unprecedented level for 

Embracing ambiguity and not leading with bias towards a specific solution allows teams to develop the right solution for the right reasons — and ultimately, for the right customer.

The idea is to think as broadly as possible in several directions.

A method for innovation 

IBM ‘understand the present, envision the future in a continuous cycle of observing, reflecting and making’ through their Loop framework. 

A simplified and proprietary rendition of the design thinking methodology. 

IBM’s focus, like ours, focusses on outcomes for users and their needs. It iterates continuously and in turn, learns and adapts. It embraces cross-functional teams and allows these teams to act, deliver and reimagine future states in a nimble and effective manner.

Through embracing design, this leader of 20th Century technology (and beyond) encourages divergent thinking — taking our blinkers off, getting out of the building and talking to users.

This ambiguity and ability to develop empathy has lead this organisation to innovate its internal practices to focus on outcomes and delivery on an unprecedented level for 

Embracing ambiguity and not leading with bias towards a specific solution allows teams to develop the right solution for the 

The idea is to think as broadly as possible in several directions.

Why is it important?

In 2015, Harvard Business Review stated that Design Thinking Comes of Age — it spoke of organisations shifting towards an application of design methods to the way they work. Not a surface-level application but rather a deeper one that has changed the very fabric of some of the world’s largest, most well known organisations. Impacting culture, product, services and technology in a deeper way. 

Today, we have a model of examining and solving complex user problems and this is how we begin every one of our engagements with our clients — a model that humanises technology and the digital world we live in; and further enables us to develop even more relevant and meaningful outcomes for both clients and users.

Design thinking enables us to question ‘why’ a solution is assumed, and enables us to have the user’s voice in the room with us during the examination and diagnosis of the complex, wicked problem we are solving for.

As uncomfortable as it makes some feel, we enter every interaction with the assumption that nobody but the user understands the problem. A level of curiousity that is at the heart of technological innovation yes, but more so an innovation for people that is viable, desirable and feasible. 

Design Thinking converts you from being a problem solver into being a problem finder. If you completely understand the bigger problem, you can design the optimal solution.

The more we start to notice, the more we see, and this leads to bigger, more authentic conversations.

Why is it important?

In 2015, Harvard Business Review stated that Design Thinking Comes of Age — it spoke of organisations shifting towards an application of design methods to the way they work. Not a surface-level application but rather a deeper one that has changed the very fabric of some of the world’s largest, most well known organisations. Impacting culture, product, services and technology in a deeper way. 

Today, we have a model of examining and solving complex user problems and this is how we begin every one of our engagements with our clients — a model that humanises technology and the digital world we live in; and further enables us to develop even more relevant and meaningful outcomes for both clients and users.

Design thinking enables us to question ‘why’ a solution is assumed, and enables us to have the user’s voice in the room with us during the examination and diagnosis of the complex, wicked problem we are solving for.

As uncomfortable as it makes some feel, we enter every interaction with the assumption that nobody but the user understands the problem. A level of curiousity that is at the heart of technological innovation yes, but more so an innovation for people that is viable, desirable and feasible. 

Design Thinking converts you from being a problem solver into being a problem finder. If you completely understand the bigger problem, you can design the optimal solution.

The more we start to notice, the more we see, and this leads to bigger, more authentic conversations.

Tank
© 2018

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