Design Thinking – How to put “Design” at the center of your Business?


Today one of the most (ab)used word in the corporate world is “Design Thinking”, as “Strategy” was in the last decade. Design, creativity and art have been historically abhorred in the corporate world; processes (standard operating procedures), routines, discipline, productivity, management being a science and not art, etc. have ruled the corporate thinking in the last three to four decades.

But with global recessions, process failures, productivity and performance issues, corporates are challenged in their way of thinking. In fact, corporate fanatics like Steve Jobs (Apple) have proven that Design is key to products, people and performance. Thus, Design Thinking is becoming imperative for corporates.

Corporate leaders would admit that in the last decade, ‘design’ and ‘creativity’ were relegated to marketing and maybe advertising communities while boardroom discussions were centred around strategy, technology, new markets, product development (innovation), etc.. With an obsession on quantitative (left brain thinking) parameters, the qualitative parameters of experience, service delight, customer loyalty (rather than purchase), word of mouth goodwill building, behavioral insights, etc. were inadvertently ignored.

Design Thinking is a simple yet unique method by which the entire organization thinks of a solution in a practical and simple way. The inherent habit of putting every problem or opportunity in an excel sheet, then breaking it down to various processes or steps in a presentation and then implementing it through multiple spreadsheets is passé. Thus, the goal has to be defined first, rather than the problem. Creative thinking helps us visualize the future and not how today will look tomorrow. So yesterday’s camera, watch and even TV is inbuilt in today’s cell phone and thus a whole generation of kids are growing up without experiencing TV but the tablet.

Getting down to brass-tacks how can organizations help create a design thinking environment? The first step is to let employees be themselves, think out of the box and naturally. Most organizations have become so rigid that even thinking is process driven. A culture of openness, divergent thinking rather than convergent thinking is a must. Empathy towards societal problems rather than a bottom line-focused approach is a must – Steve Jobs would have never come up with his products if he was only worried about profits. Nevertheless, profits, surely follow real problem solving.

As design and creative people, few things that all of us should keep in mind to build a ‘Design Think’ led solution are:

  • As design and creative people, the first thing that Design Thinking should do is help us build creative design strategies from a white canvas. Try to approach building a solution from ground zero, rather than tweaking the current set.
  • Often corporates want solutions within a defined ambit – the ability to challenge the same and look out for divergent or new viewpoints are critical to build the Design Thinking mindset!
  • Simple design solutions for the end consumer and not something to satisfy the orgasmic needs of the brand manager or the CEO. Often as creative people, we are focused towards the client and work towards satisfying his / her intellectual needs rather than addressing real customer needs.
  • Pick up societal and behavioral cues from every day people, the common man, the millennial generation rather than relying too much on table research, excel sheet data, analytics, etc. As the old saying goes, nothing much has happened by sitting behind the table (nowadays the computer).

The key to build a Design Thinking led organization is to accept that hard facts (financials, numbers, etc.) are no more the sole (soul) basis for consumer solutions. Building “Soft Facts” and “Societal Behavioral Insights” to deliver new age solutions that help the consumer & society first and the company later (and the other way round) is the only way traditional organizations can survive the future.

Simplicity, ease of use and solving a real consumer problem or discovering an unmet or unsaid consumer need are the key to Design Thinking.