In 1960, a MIT professor had found the fundamental mechanism of deterministic chaos, where one variable could have profound impact on the outcome of an entire system. This was the “butterfly effect”. This method was used in weather forecasting based on past and present data points. Similar, to what we are doing in business. Our society is rapidly changing, and we have a very dynamic, unpredictable and volatile value constellation. With our business leaders doing a linear fashion strategy creation based on past and present data – it can bring us to an edge of destruction. Business today, is disconnected from the global ripple. And I believe, this is why the importance of Design Thinking is growing.
Design Thinking powers strategic innovation and not strategic planning. Planning and vision statement does not re-invent business but only rejuvenates few top line management. It is the true beauty of Design thinking with it’s human-centered approach that can truly create value in a radically changing networks and in a world of disruptive technology.
For some time, strategic management leaders tried collaborating with scientists and studying behaviours in nature to replicate same models. Although they were successful in creating some compelling models for strategic management but these were not fail-proof. I believe that no strategic management measures can be full-proof at any given point – we are only devising the strategies based on past and present data. As Service Dominant Logic very well points out that every service is based on a galaxy of other services, which makes the mega-system very unpredictable and volatile. We can of course devise the best-hit strategies but always make room for unpredictability. And this where some organisation excels with their ability of intuition. Intuition has the subtle balance of quantitative and qualitative art which is often needed for all parts to click.
Design Thinking promotes such qualities which are rarely found in the business world. It is yin to yang. It is the perfect balance between the hard-coded world of business with the creative and intuitive part of Design.
What are these qualities which makes Design Thinking so harmonious with Business – the yin to yang?
Firstly, Design Thinking supports going out in the field and talking to customers, uncovering needs, understanding the real value proposition which matters to customers, experimenting and prototyping. Design Thinking pertains to real doing whereas Business is more about talking – talking about great visions over powerpoints and pointing at numbers through Excel.
Secondly, Business makes prediction based on past and present datapoints. Moreover, they base their strategy based on stable world. But our world is hardly stable. This where Design plays a crucial role. Design Thinking thrives on uncertainty. Design allow us to experiment, fail and celebrate chaos.
Thirdly, the crucial and one of the most important factors why Design Thinking is an absolute necessary for Business for it’s obsession with understanding user, their needs and aspirations. Business does market segmentation based on demography which might not truly reflect a user’s actual experience and aspirations.
Fourthly, Business Vision Statement and Strategy is a very top-down approach. Few leaders devise the strategy and the whole organization re-organizes and strives itself to achieve it. It is very far-off from the approach of Design Thinking, which is very collaborative in nature. It allows people from different background, stakeholder groups, expertise – join together and bring different perspective to table.
So how does Design Thinking works ?
Design Thinking tries to understand the following questions :
– What is
– What if
– What wows
– What works
Largely, What is – starts with Discovery. In this phase we are trying to understand the user, their context, user needs, pain points and aspirations.
What if – coincides with the discovery phase where we are trying to understand what probable concept of Product or Service might work through Pain Point identification, Value Proposition, Brainstorming and Concept Development,.
In the third phase of what wows– we try to understand what can delight the user. We do so by rapid prototyping to learn what elevates the user experience of the product to WOW.
The final phase of what works– emphasise on going out in the filed with our prototype and testing with our real users. This step enhances us to get more real feedback, improve our concept and iterate back to actually build a wow experience.
Now, we might ask who is a Design Thinker? What makes a person – a Design Thinker?
The answer might lie in the ability to merge logic with creative intelligence, emotional quotient, ability to collaborate and celebrate chaos. Tim Brown in Harvard Business Review June edition (2008, 87) mentioned some characteristics of a successful Design Thinker. Design Thinkers have the ability to empathise, integrative thinking, optimism, experimentalism and collaboration. To me, the ability to empathise and collaborate stands out the most.
In our first Design Thinking Masterclass, our group had come with brilliant results because we were able to collaborate with each other drawing in our different backgrounds and experiences.
I find similar collaboration method was implemented by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli.
The world celebrated chef and food experience creator collaborated with all his colleagues and different stakeholders to strategies and create elaborative dining experience. His lab would go through several workshops, brainstorming and concept development phases before planning out experimentation. His team would welcome iteration and failure with enthusiasm as they believed nothing novel arises without chaos. Though, traditionally outside the realm of business world but he showed every attributes of a Design Thinker.
Posted by : Debarati Rakshit , 1st year SID student
- Brown, Tim 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95
- The evolution of design thinking. Harvard Business Review. Sep 2015; Vol. 93 (9)
- Liedtka, Jeanne & Ogilvie, Tim 2011. Designing for growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers, New York: Columbia University Press.
- Mootee, Idris (2013) Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley
Excellent. Go ahead.
A well written article. Worth reading it. Good one.
Hi Debarati, thanks for making a parallelism between Design Thinking, Business and the Yin Yang Chinese Philosophy. I loved it!
Generally speaking I guess we are used to the classical model of three circles (Business – User – Technology) where their simultaneous interconnection generates Innovation. I am wondering if you have thought about comparing the two visualisation models and in your opinion where would you put Technology in the Yin to Yang visualisation? Business or Design side?
I love your food metaphor. The what works and what wows approach is an excellent description if the shift that has to happen in bushiness to actually innovate. Analysis of the past doesn’t lead to innovation. Only looking around and within will lead to significant step change innovation.