Design Thinking for non-Design Thinkers

Today the world around us is continuously evolving and companies must be flexible and able to adapt to changes in society. Therefore, companies are testing new business logics and models to solve wicked social and business problems.  

This is where Design Thinking comes into play. This process is described by Tschimmel (based on Brown 2009) as “not only a cognitive process or a mindset, but […] an effective method with a toolkit for any innovation process, connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking”.  

The “Why and How” of Design Thinking 

Businesses are looking for solutions to provide services that are compelling and innovative by closely following latest trends. In other words, companies strive to give a better sense of customer fulfilment by bringing something new and useful to the world.  

Design Thinking puts people who use a service in the heart of the design process consisting of inspiration, ideation and implementation phases. Implementing Design Thinking requires getting whole organization involved in embracing its principles. It is crucial that firms discover unmet customer needs and create new products to gain competitive advantages. This process, a core of Design Thinking, might just be a pathway to truly successful innovations. 

The “Why Not” of Design Thinking  

If the benefits of Design Thinking are so remarkable, how come it is not yet a standard toolkit of every organization?  

Organizations consist of people and many of us may believe that creativity is just for Design Thinkers. Design Thinking forces us to face uncertainty and we might be unwilling to share incomplete, let alone extravagant ideas: we want to be seen as know-it-all-professionals. Creativity is a window to one’s soul which can’t be opened without psychological safety.  

As to companies, they are challenged with organizational silos and competing agendas as well as counterproductive cults such as short-term performance and efficiency, that may cause issues when implementing Design Thinking. Furthermore, the iterative nature of the process takes time and resources as ideas are put to life through rapid experimentation and prototyping, and return on investments of design may be hard to measure. 

Conclusions  

Based on our perceptions, we justify utilizing Design Thinking by the following:  

  1.  The world is changing – So should you and your business  
    Regardless of how successful your business is, you can’t stay still. Although becoming a proficient Design Thinking organization may be challenging, it can be THE success factor. Can you afford not to try?   
  1. Believe in yourself – Everybody has what it takes  
    As Tschimmel puts it, you don’t need to be gifted genius, we all have “the innate potential to think creatively and can improve creative thoughts by applying certain techniques and methods.”     
  1. Be persistent – You will learn by trial and error   
    Edison said: “it is 99% perspiration and 1% of inspiration.” Grasp how to fail fast and learn quickly.     
  1. Believe in group power – Embrace uncertainty  
    Go with the flow and allow yourself to be surprised by the power of collaboration.   

And the definition of non-Design Thinkers? They don’t exist; they just need to discover their inner Design Thinker. 

This blog post is written by two Service Design (MBA) students:
Sanna Antola and Thomas Djupsjö at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. 

For further inspiration

References

Brown, Tim (2008). Design Thinking
Harvard Business Review, p. 84-92

Fraser, Heather M.A.:  Designing Business: New Models for Success in Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Lockwood, Thomas in 2010. Allworth Press. New York.  

Jenkins, Julian: Creating the Right Environment for Design in Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Lockwood, Thomas in 2010. Allworth Press. New York. 

Løvlie, Lavrans,  Downs, Chris and Reason, Ben: Bottom-Line Experiences: Measuring the Value of Design in Service in Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Lockwood, Thomas in 2010. Allworth Press. New York. 

Kolko, Jon (2015). Design thinking comes of age.
Harvard Business Review, September 2015, p. 66-71

Tschimmel, Katja (2020 forthcoming). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois 

Tschimmel, Katja (2020). Design Thinking course lectures, September 4–5th 2020. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland. 

 

3 thoughts on “Design Thinking for non-Design Thinkers

  1. As I see it, psychological safety is the key issue if an organization wishes to utilize the methods of Design Thinking in its performance and encourage employees to release their inner Design Thinker. One key term is trust. Employees and the employer must have mutual understanding that bringing up new ideas and opportunities is to be encouraged, no one should be punished coming up with novel ideas. As one feels safe, people can truly feel engagement and feel motivated to address possibly complex issues. There could be a positive cycle of development and iteration. Without the structure of trust and psychological safety, it may create a feeling that Design Thinking is being connected artificially to the organization since Design Thinking is trendy and other organizations are using it as well.

  2. Dear Sanna and Thomas,

    Thank you for your blog writing – I am delighted to see that my classmates are truly enthusiastic about design thinking and tools the discipline provides. When I learnt about the tools we implemented in our workshop for the first time, I asked the same question: ”how come it is not yet a standard toolkit of every organization?”

    Indeed, there is an enormous “toolbox” with utensils for every issue and community: journey- and mind-mapping, prototyping, interviewing, assumption testing, just to name a few. In my opinion, these methods not only help ideating remarkable solutions, but are also wonderful for team-building and knowing each other within a group. This fact supports design thinking to be a human-driven and human-centred process.

    Kindest wishes,
    Kate

  3. I think what you wrote about (some) companies consisting of people that do not consider themselves as creative is very true. I can say it was a relief to read Tschimmel’s article and to realize that everyone can be creative.

    It can be very intimidating to share your ideas, especially if the company culture does not support failure or favours bureaucracy and hierarchies. Even if it does I feel Design Thinking processes are a great way to encourage people to share even more. It can be a struggle to implement these changes in your company as a whole, but I feel you can always start small, for example within your own team or with colleagues.

    Best,
    Joni

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