Design Thinking in Organisations: Why Should Leaders Care?

Design thinking and related disciplines such as human-centric design and service design were once labels attached to eccentric designers. Now they are common in the wider organisational life and vocabulary, and they are here to stay.

According to Gartner, design thinking is the number one emerging soft skill (cognitive and social skills) for C-Suite executives.

What is design thinking in organisations?

Innovation drives company value and design thinking gives a structured, yet humanistic approach to new innovation and problem-solving.

What is design thinking? Watch the HBR video in 2 minutes.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

– Tim Brown, Executive Chair of Ideo

While there are various models for different design thinking processes, it is as much about the right kind of mindset as it is about the rigour of process. A “designer’s mind” is a bit like a learner’s mind – approaching issues with open curiosity, being willing to fail and learn from it while having the creative confidence to produce a great outcome.

One of the difficulties for executives is the willingness to accept and embrace failure. Company cultures are traditionally driven by the endless expectations to beat last quarter’s results. Innovating faster is not only about scaling up R&D investments, but understanding how people think and act in their organisation.

“Design thinking should be at the core of strategy development and organizational change in order to create a culture that’s focused on this way of solving problems. This way of thinking can be applied to products, services, and processes; anything that needs to be improved.”

– Lawton Ursrey on Forbes.

Using design thinking at work

Managers don’t need to become designers in order to create conditions where innovation can thrive. Design thinking can offer a process for cultivating an innovation mindset for everyone.

User-centric thinking sounds simple but is not always so in practice. Take a look at HR functions as an example: Are recruitment, career planning, development discussions and employee onboarding designed with the user in mind? Do you constantly develop new ideas and test what works best and how to make these processes more effective?

Using design thinking to create a customer-centric organisation

Organisations that are focused on pleasing the boss, are less likely to come up with great innovations than organizations driven by customer success. Both startups, as well as multinational companies, have the tendency to develop new products and services without properly testing them with the customers. The Lean Startup movement popularized by Eric Ries and Customer development process by Steve Blank are useful approaches for putting design thinking into action.

Using design thinking to create better learning experiences

Our company, World of Insights, operates in the field of corporate learning. We have applied design thinking in new product development and it has influenced the way we fundamentally operate. We design learning by placing the learner at the centre of the process.

Lectures and trainings are generally content driven. Over 30 million powerpoint presentations are created daily, and an average presentation runs for 250 minutes! It is time to start thinking about the user and their learning objective and not the content.

How to get started?

So how to get started with design thinking? A service designer once told me to reserve time at the end of each meeting to actually implement the first action. It doesn’t need to be much, but the power of just doing something is huge compared to planning actions. Do you have an idea? What is the smallest microcosm of that idea that could be tested right now?

Or, if you want to introduce design thinking in your organisation, why not try our Unlimited design thinking game for leaders? It taps on the mindset of design thinking and understanding creative group processes, without any prior need to understand design thinking.

To end on a user-centric note, let us know what you would like to learn more about next time?

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