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DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 2 of 4: Why should you care about Design Thinking?

DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 2 of 4: Why should you care about Design Thinking?

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George Panakal

This piece is Part 2 of a 4-Part series on Design Thinking. In Part 1, we introduced you to the concept of Design Thinking and busted some myths which surround it. Part 2 takes a closer look at why Design Thinking is a good tool to have in your kit as a professional. And perhaps as a human being ?

By now, we have established that design thinking is a structured process to solve problems, that assures you of a solution that meets both the customer and business aspirations. The reason for it to gain prominence in the 21st century is that it is an eclectic mix of human, design, and business philosophies. While most problem-solving targets one, or at best two of these aspects, design thinking does a wonderful job of addressing all three. The design thinking methodology progresses from the customer, to the designer, to the stakeholder to ensure that their needs are met, and their innovations are realized.

Let’s look at three reasons why you should consider design thinking as a problem-solving methodology.

1. It fosters human values.

Core to the philosophy of design thinking is the human centered nature of the process. It seeks to solve real problems faced by real people. The process requires you to immerse yourself in the context of your user, customer, client, or consumer and experience it as they do. This necessitates a high level of empathy and imagining a solution that will delight them.

Another key skill you develop as a design thinker is the ability to listen without judgment. And the listening skills you employ as a successful design thinker is more than skin-deep. In face-to-face conversations, it means that you have to pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues; in telephonic conversations, you have to listen for the tone, pitch, and pace; and in written conversations, you will need to read between the lines for subtext and context.

Collaboration is also an important ability that a design thinker should possess. As a methodology, design thinking thrives on diversity. Diversity of perspectives, ideas, opinions, abilities, perceptions, etc. help you view the same situation with multiple lenses that give you a varied body of insights. So, the ability to collaborate helps you understand the problem and frame it better.

2. It values innovation.

I am sure we can all agree that design thinking is a way to drive innovation. However, what should motivate you to try design thinking at the workplace is the ease and simplicity with which the design thinking methodology achieves it.

In the previous blog post, we busted the myth that only creative people can be adept at design thinking. We also saw how discipline, in terms of adherence to the methodology and usage of tools, can compensate for a perceived lack of a creative disposition.

Now that we’ve established that anyone can innovate, let’s examine the reason behind my confidence in the claim ?

a. Power of the collective: Two heads are better than one. When multiple people look at a solution, they see multiple ways of overcoming the same challenge, based on their own perception or frame of reference. For example, while I was running a design thinking basics workshop for a major airline company, I wanted the learners to take back an implementable solution at the end of the workshop.

The consensus (from many options) was to enable a single parent traveling with an infant to have a memorable and stress-free flight. The class came up with seven (near zero cost) ideas ranging from a pre-flight email to regular in-flight checks that could positively impact the experience of the flyer. And each of these were prototyped (as a welcome note and a role-play) during the session and improved on by the collective.

Collective brainstorming helps us come up with multiple ideas, weigh each option and come to a consensus on which ideas make the most sense to try. This can be an iterative process, but one that is less overwhelming because of collective inputs.

b. The truth in numbers: While ideas are linked to the credibility of the individual/s supporting it, the strength of numbers speak for themselves. Whether it is the brainstorming session, prototyping workshop, or a validation exercise, the numbers generated to give you the true picture. This ensures that innovation is adding value to the solution and not taking away from it.

While working with an international banking major to build ‘savings mentality’ for its customers, the stakeholders agreed that we would also create an easy to use the companion app for the program. While the app elements were prototyped and appreciated, the idea didn’t get the intended response from internal teams. When probed, it was clear that the logo, a take on the ‘piggy bank’, caused discomfort to a good number of people, specifically among the Moslem and Jewish communities. Now, despite having both Moslems and Jews in the design team, the euphoria of co-creating a product made them overlook the logo. It was the data of the poll, tied to demographics the helped us connect the dots!

It can be absolutely any aspect of an idea that can cause a solution to failing, but the numbers don’t lie. Which is why gathering constant feedback and acting on it is important, and design thinking has this action built into its construct.

c. The vision of retrospect: Everyone has a 20:20 hindsight. It is easier to learn from past successes (or failures) than with any theoretical model (That’s one reason why simulations are often regarded as one of the best learning methodologies). The design thinking process gives you the edge in terms of iterative implementation based on test data (we will see how in the next post in this series). Thanks to my experience with the piggy bank, I always make it a point to be very careful of symbology and depictions in any new creation or review ?

3. It improves business acumen.

Another major ability honed by design thinking is business acumen. With design thinking, you will be able to think more holistically about solutions, with not just the business viability, but also the impact on people and processes.

To be a design thinker, you will need to both diverge and converge in terms of situations and solutions. In the process, you gain both a big-picture appreciation of your business and a tacit knowledge of the process (or product, market, customer, etc.). You will gain insights on how the organizational machinery is geared and appreciate how the cogs interact with the wheels and spokes within it. It helps you connect the dots within your business and visualize an end-to-end solution that spans customers, teams, and stakeholders, thanks to the DFV (or desirability, viability and feasibility) analysis of the ideas. The diversity mandate for teams helps you build better intra-company networks. These are excellent opportunities to gain insights and socialize innovations. This part of how the design thinking methodology brings these aspects together is the crux of the next post in this series.

I hope this blog has convinced you to try out design thinking as a problem-solving methodology. However, in my opinion, it should be the collateral benefits of using design thinking that tip the scale for you to try it at your next workout.

But before that, we’ll need to know what the design thinking methodology is! That is a topic that I will take up in the next post in this series. In Part-3, we will demystify jargons like desirability, feasibility, and viability in the context of design thinking, and look at two of the most common frameworks in use. Finally, we will arrive at a composite model that you may use irrespective of the school of thought you subscribe to.

Keep tuning in!


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