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Design Thinking

What is design thinking and how it can help in any business strategy

In 2008 Tim Brown, CEO and president of design company IDEO,

in a famous article on the Harvard Business Review wrote: “Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, process and even strategy.”

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, process and even strategy.”

The statement is linked to the invention of the bulb by Thomas Alva Edison, a case study often used to present different concept about creativity, resilience, business strategy. Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park - New Jersey was the first institution created with the sole cope to innovate. The team was composed of creative people from different backgrounds, who knew they were supposed to experiment and learn from their own mistakes if necessary. They were engaged in creating new products or implement some already available, to improve people life. Sometimes Edison would have also created the all business around it.

Given the mission, it was essential for the team to understand people needs, explore the problems related to them, find feasible solutions.

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Thomas A. Edison

Brown in his article mentions the Edison story to introduce the concept of design thinking, which is not just abut the idea, the creation of a device, but also the understanding of the world that is needed for the device to exist. It is a global human-centered perspective. Bringing Design Thinking into the innovation process can help in making innovation easier and more successful.

See it as a system

The process of Design Thinking is not made of steps, the way we usually create models, it is a system where different areas of activities are related to each other. It is complex rather than linear. Apparently chaotic at the beginning, but extremely powerful with unexpected successful outcomes.

The three different areas

It is a human-centered process, therefore it becomes crucial at the beginning to understand people needs and to keep them in mind through the all process.

Inspiration - where a problem or an opportunity or both inspire the search for a solution.

In this area the team focuses on deeply understanding the problem. They explore the reality, observe habits, new needs, changes that happened and require new solutions or changes that might occur. A great deal is dedicated to listening and feedback.

Ideation - where the team explores ideas; lot of brainstorming for possibile solutions to solve the problem; they test them, create scenarios, draw sketches, describe the potential customer journey, build creative frameworks.

Implementation - where the product or service is developed and brought into the market. The team executes a business scalable model, tests internally and externally with users.

They go back and forth for further adjustments and implementation in accordance to market response to predictions, new evidences and new directions.

(Tim Brown

Given the three areas, it becomes easy to imagine a team composed of creative minds, scientists, engineers, even skeptical souls as long as they are accompanied by optimistic dreamers.

(During the process we might also use one specific coaching exercise based on strategy map created by Disney, probably the first modern design thinker. We will present it in a future article).

The essential skills of a design thinking team

Applying the concept is not enough. Besides individual competences there are qualities that a team leader needs to identify and develop within the team.

Empathy - helps to observe the situation from different points of view. Not just as solution makers, but also as future users, clients and colleagues.

Integrative thinking - ability to define solutions and ideas and integrate them even in contradictory contexts.

Optimism - no matter how hard, we know we will make it. In case there is one skeptical in the team, that person could become important in identifying possible critical points.

Experimentalism - it is not about applying knowledge, but about lateral thinking, ability to see and take new directions.

Collaboration - more experiences, curiosity, willingness to share outcome. No lone genius, but genius team.

Design Thinking applied to any strategic project can generate great long term results also to the development of the team, both as a group and as individuals. It teaches to give up the cause-effect logic for a more appreciative collective intelligence.

To know more about Design Thinking visit Tim Brown's website IDEO.

Carla Benedetti - Founder at TH-HABITAT - entrepreneur, coach, passionate about innovation and technology.
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