Subject: RE: Design and Innovation Education -- BusinessWeek
Please review...and when ready...give the 15 minute version of why I should need to know more.
This was the response I received when I emailed Gene a link to the BusinessWeek Special Report on Design Thinking: "How best to educate the design thinkers and innovators of the future? BusinessWeek's list features promising programs from design and business schools from around the world."
What follows is my attempt at a 15-minute (or less) explanation of why he should need to know more.
Tim Brown, CEO IDEO, defines Design Thinking as: “Design thinking is really about using the sensibilities and methodologies that designers have developed to create new choices, new alternatives, new ideas that haven’t existed in the world before. But it’s being applied today much further upstream and to a much broader set of problems than it has been traditionally. It’s the same skills that designers developed literally for decades, but [those skills are now] applied on a much broader canvas than they used to be.”
Paula Thornton (@rotkapchen), I think, put it really well: "Design thinking is not about solving design problems, it's about solving problems with design."
Said another way, the skill and talent and methodologies employed to create a “better mousetrap” can and should be used to address bigger, more complex needs and issues. What was originally and narrowly constrained to solving only issues of aesthetics is now a vehicle for developing solutions to problems like patient care, banking, and retail. The mousetrap has been expanded to include things like business models, warehousing, drug delivery, and food distribution.
In his book, Change By Design, Brown writes, “Design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols” (p. 4).
In brief, Design Thinking is an iterative process consisting of the following steps: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. What this means is Design Thinking identifies the problem and the people for whom the solution is to be designed, dives deep in exploring new and old ideas, new and old frontiers, fails early and often to see what works and what doesn’t, and then pushes the solution out of the lab and into the marketplace. The iterative nature of Design Thinking means any one of these “steps” can be revisited and still be considered part of the process.
With that said, here are three reasons why you should know more about Design Thinking:
1. Design Thinking destroys groupthink.
Not surprisingly, researchers from the University of Minnesota discovered that the language most often used within an organization is a cultural signal of how innovative it is (You can listen the BusinessWeek podcast, or download the paper, or see my previous post). What has been observed is dissenting opinions get sidelined for a myopic consensus – i.e. groupthink. Design Thinking helps to change the way we approach the issues so all ideas get voiced and tested.
2. Design Thinking reimagines a better future.
How do we create new services and meet new needs when our own experience is not sufficient? Because it is interdisciplinary, Design Thinking helps to reimagine and create a future borrowing from a world of experiences and perspectives. This can translate into new products, new markets, or new distribution systems – and eventually, new profits.
3. Design Thinking is being used by your competitors.
Chances are one of your competitors has started using Design Thinking or is planning to implement it as a mainstay of their business. Why? Ultimately, they see Design Thinking as the tool that will help them fulfill Peter Drucker’s axiom: "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business." Design Thinking is centered on observing human behavior in order to deduce latent human needs. People don’t always know how to say what they need, but they often show it. And your competitors are looking to capitalize on their insights into customer behaviors at your expense.
To summarize, Design Thinking is a method for making sure we are working on the right activities at the right times in order to better influence the right results in an increasingly complex world. This is one of the reasons why universities worldwide are beginning to offer hybrid programs that combine traditional MBAs with Design Thinking principles. As Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School, argues in his book The Design of Business: "Neither analysis nor intutition alone is enough... The most successful businesses in the years to come will balance analytical mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay that I call design thinking." It is simply becoming part of the new “how” of business.
Here are a handful of links that you can review if you want to dig a little deeper:
1. Design Thinking 101 by Daniel MacKenzie
2. Design Thinking, Tim Brown's blog
3. Sparc @ The Mayo Clinic
4. What is Design Thinking, Really? by Vanessa Miemis
6. Why We All Need A Little More Design Thinking by Saj-nicole Joni at Forbes.com
7. Design Thinking Can Give Businesses An Edge by Harold Hambrose
I think there is a lot of information online about Design Thinking. Gene asks an important question: "Why should I need to know more?" I have given three reasons above why Design Thinking is important. Why do you think Design Thinking is important? WHY should businesses consider its application?