Tag Archive | Business Design

Design Thinking and Business – the Yin and Yang !

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.

The creative and qualitative world of Design Thinking perfectly marries quantitative realm of business world. It perfectly clicks !

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.

Yin Yang – in Chinese Philosophy it is said that sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected.

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.

Insight Map which we used in classroom. It is a tool to develop a closer empathy for our user, understand their aspirations and empathise with their pain points.

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 ?

Largely, Design Thinking through it’s different models evolved over years tries to answer these four fundamental questions

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,.

The team at El Bulli doing rough sketches of their concept dishes. Picture available at : https://uxdesign.cc/how-elbulli-turned-dining-into-an-experience-38f1c015e9f6

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 team at El Bulli doing rapid prototyping of their concept dishes. Picture available at : https://uxdesign.cc/how-elbulli-turned-dining-into-an-experience-38f1c015e9f6

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.

Wannabe Yogis 🙂 – my amazing team !

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.

Ferran Adrià at El Bulli collaborating in the deep creative process with his team. Picture available at : https://uxdesign.cc/how-elbulli-turned-dining-into-an-experience-38f1c015e9f6

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

References :

  • 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

Business Design- An Uncharted Journey to the Future

Dash Talks hosted the event “Design + Business” where three professional business designers came to speak about the challenges and value of design thinking in the world of business.  Hanne Nissinen from OP, Jaakko Luomaranta from Palmu/Solita, and Petteri Kolinen from Design Forum Finland came to share their personal journeys and observations of not only how the design thinking movement has impacted modern business development, but also where they envision it leading businesses into the future.  Although they each had unique stories and insights to share, there were some overlapping themes that manifested in all three presentations. 

In the book “Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation” by Idris Mootee, the author explores using design thinking as an unorthodox approach to disrupting the current linear processes of business model and strategy creation and execution.  He also explores the differences in the business model (how business value is monetized), business strategy (branding, relevance, and futures thinking) and how design thinking when spread throughout an entire organization has the potential to keep businesses connected, competitive and malleable in order to keep up with a world that is undergoing an increasingly rapid transformation and progression into uncharted territories.

Challenges

Despite the excitement over this new palette for design thinking in the realm of business design, the first big challenge that all three speakers touched on was the novelty of design thinking as a major influence in business planning.  Service design in services has been around the block a bit longer than design in business, and there are not yet common established frameworks unifying the application of design thinking in business scenarios.  Hanna and Jaakko illustrated examples of how, due to a lack of solid definition of the process of business design, this can make some businesses wary of adapting business design as new mindset, method of operation, and vehicle for innovation.

Which leads to the next substantial hurdle of the resistance of established companies to the drastic structural and operational changes inspired by design thinking.  The older, more established, and successful a company is, the less receptive they will be to drastic organizational and cultural change.  It is the job of the designer to be the leader in a shift towards design thinking and laying the foundation for multidisciplinary interactions that break down the walls of the traditional isolated silo style way of working; starting at the top with the CEO and upper management (this is key) and rapidly spreading across the entire organizational structure.

Hanna shared a list of challenges faced by business designers at OP that I think could apply to any business designer shaking up company culture for the first time with new design thinking inspired ideas to take into consideration:

She also spoke about some good qualities a business designer should have when working with a company new to design thinking:

  • proactivity (in finding/creating projects)
  • the ability to successfully pitch your idea
  • successful cases (to prove it works)
  • the ability to not be overly discouraged by failure (we all know this will happen)
  • the courage to be different

Most importantly, she said that the most important element that is needed between the service designer and upper management is trust.

One of the other challenges I would like to touch on that all three speakers mentioned was the difficulty of finding people qualified to hire as business designers.  Yes, a business designer is a design thinking professional, however according to the speakers at this event, businesses are often looking to find candidates who also have a business background and are willing to find ways to combine both quantitative and qualitative methods to gain better consumer and business insights.  They spoke about looking for a special combination of talent profiles, and each business was looking for a slightly different combination of design and business skill. The one thing all three speakers agreed on was that the most important attribute in a potential candidate is creativity and positivity.

Another challenge that was presented was the balancing act between what is best for the user and what is best for the business.  Although this was not explored in depth during the talks, this is something that I would like to research further on my own as it is an interesting concept for me to personally explore in my own work.

To end this section, I would like to mention a podcast that Jaakko highlighted called “Beyond Users” aimed at merging design thinkers with the world of business.  Here is the first episode in the podcast series (featuring Trent Huon from IDEO Munich) that explores the role of business in design and why it is important for designers to not forget about the importance of the business they are designing for in their designs:

https://www.beyondusers.com/podcast/trent-huon

Value

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” —John F. Kennedy

The last speaker, Petteri, spoke about the positive effects that design thinking can have on a business.  To a business that is open to fully embrace the concept, it has the power to incite change at the very core of a business identity, value system, and culture. Critical application of design thinking within a business can challenge long standing traditions and viewpoints forcing a business to not be complacent with past or present successes, but to focus on the future. The application of design thinking to business models and strategy plans can enhance value co-creation and establish a holistic brand experience with their users.

One report that all three speakers spoke about was “The New Design Frontier” report by InVision.  This report is “An industry-spanning report that redefines design maturity today.  InVisionsurveyed thousands of companies to explore the relationship between design practices and business performance”.  One of the main discoveries is that currently only very small percentage (5%!) of companies are using design thinking to maximum advantage. Roughly 41% of companies surveyed “have significant room to grow”. 

InVision created the “Design Maturity Model” to highlight the disparity between companies that have embraced design thinking, and those that have not:

Design Maturity Solar System Model by InVision

If you would like to read the report in its entirety and get more details about each of the levels visualized in this model, I urge you to read the full report published on the InVision site:

https://www.invisionapp.com/design-better/design-maturity-model/

Personal Reflection

In order to keep moving forward and be adaptable, I believe it is necessary for businesses to rethink the way they operate and innovate with the assistance of design thinking. 

The resistance to change in large companies is something I understand and encounter in my own work.  It is good to keep this in mind as I move forward and to remember the strategies suggested in this talk should I ever be placed in the situation of being the person trying to bring drastic change.  On a smaller scale, I challenge myself to remain open to changes and adjustments to old working habits when someone presents a good idea that shakes things up in the workplace, and not resist change just because I am comfortable.  Things may be currently working well, but you will never know if it is possible for them to be better if you don’t let yourself remain open to change.

While this transition period (from traditional business structures to design influenced structures) can be a scary time for some, I find this time of change and uncertainty (uncertainty is not always bad) to be exciting to watch unfold.  The ball is in the court of the business designers to prove the efficacy of design thinking on business organizations, and only time will tell how this great experiment will turn out. 


“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” —Niccolo Machiavelli

Written By: Johanna Johnson

Sources

Mootee, Idris (2013) Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley.

Faljic, A. (Host) Beyond Users #1 Trent Huon @IDEO: Not thinking about business is bad design [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.beyondusers.com/podcast/trent-huon

Buley, L., Avore, C., Gates, S., Gonzalez, S., Goodman, R., Walter, A. (2019). The New Design Frontier. Retrieved from DesignBetter by Invision website: https://www.invisionapp.com/design-better/design-maturity-model/