14 Oct Why design thinking is your next competitive advantage
There’s a change in business leadership that’s transforming the way we solve problems…and that shift revolves around design thinking. Design affects much more than appearances, and can help develop innovative solutions for just about any problem. Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the Museum of Modern Art said it best: “Design is not style. It’s not about giving shape to the shell and not giving a damn about the guts. Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.”
If that sounds a like a bit of a stretch, bear with me for a moment…
According to Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO, 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.” Businesses deal with diverse and complex issues on a daily basis, but all of these issues all have two things in common: we need to understand them, and we should address them. Design thinking helps with both.
Take IBM as an example:
In a recent project, an airline approached IBM to improve its kiosks to speed up passenger gate check-ins. While the engineers started by improving the kiosk’s software, designers went straight to gate agents to ask why the check-in kiosks weren’t used more effectively. Designers found out that female gate agents struggled to keep kiosks charged because their constricting uniforms prevented them from reaching electrical plugs behind the machines. By finding the root of the problem, IBM delivered a mobile app that significantly eased the boarding process and reduced airline costs. –Anne Quito of Quartz
Thinking like a designer helps you become aware of issues in a way that isn’t very natural to other disciplines, and this can be especially helpful when users are involved. Design both helps you understand issues in a new context, and figure out how solutions will work in real-time.
And now that I have your attention…
Here’s exactly why industry leaders are betting big on leading with design:
It redefines the problem
IBM was able to come up with an innovative solution because the designers involved questioned what the real problem was. Sometimes the real issue at hand isn’t immediately obvious…or worse, the problem we try to address is really the symptom of a larger problem. Design thinkers always question the brief, because sometimes the real issue isn’t seen at face value.
Design thinking calls for collaboration, creating a positive environment that’s great for growth and experimenting. Herbert Simon, Professor of psychology at Carnegie-Mellon University even said “There are no judgments in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation. Wild ideas are welcome, since these often lead to the most creative solutions.”
It solves the same old problem in a different way
It’s important to create and consider many options for similar problems, even when the solution seems obvious. Having multiple perspectives can lead to innovative approaches. After all, would the same old problem keep happening if solutions were effective enough?
It puts the user first
Design thinking helps shift focus away from a ‘features-first’ approach to a ‘user-first’ mentality. By observing and speaking directly to users, you can solve the problems that real people face. That’s the difference between adding value versus blindly adding features based upon assumptions. Great problem-solving taps into a customer’s feelings and experiences to provide purposeful and informed changes.
It leads to simpler solutions
Design perspectives don’t just address challenges, they rethink them entirely. This tendency to reshape problems leads to innovations that seem deceptively simple. With the user constantly in mind, design thinking ensures that solutions are intuitive, and even humanizing.
Better business by design
Design is a process; and when you think of it that way, it becomes less about appearances and more about discovering new opportunities to meet and exceed a user’s expectations. It’s both a mindset focused on solutions and managing philosophy of great businesses.