As per popular notion, to a layman the word design refers to aesthetics. And why not? For several years we have known the Versaces, Jimmy Choos, and Channels of the world to be spoken together with the word - design. The supreme quality and state of the art craft of the products and services of these brands defined a laudable experience for their customers.
Imbibing design thinking as a culture in the corporates is way beyond crafting a shoe or a handbag. Nevertheless, it is about making 'state-of-the-art' a 'normal' across all layers within an organization.
What is Design Thinking Culture?
Design thinking culture is getting habitual into a system - a set of values, code of conduct, ways to respond to a problem or opportunities in a way that helps to optimize the output across all verticals in an organization. These organizational habits are inducted into the core value system of an organization.
Design thinking impacts every touchpoint of an organization - inside-out. It helps to get the best outcome in customer experience, employee satisfaction and profits.
How does a team respond to a given situation with mindful observation and empathy? What innovative solution do they come up with? And how do they optimize the solution?
Holistically maximized outcomes every time with each endeavor comes from a strong intent to appreciate design. Then it involves the skill set and resources to conform to the same.
The best example of design thinking that the world looks up to is Apple. Design thinking does not just reflect on their product, but it percolates to each layer of the organization. There is a 'Wow' factor that the brand creates at every touch point. And it is attributed to people that Apple hires.
How to embrace design?
A design thinking process takes time to be completely inducted into the mindset of the organization. It starts with getting the people who appreciate design. They should be ready to embrace the design thinking practices and culture of the organization. They should be given the freedom to experiment and innovate to the extent that even failures should be allowed.
There have been several examples where companies have failed only because they refused to innovate. In a recent article published in McKinsey -'Nine keys to becoming a future ready company' emphasizes on the need to take bold decisions. As per the article, top 30 companies in the survey are taking bold decisions across nine key organizational imperatives that includes - purpose, value, culture, structure, decision making, talent, ecosystems and learning.
Hence' freedom to innovate and tolerance to small failure should be imbibed into the company's culture. It will help to optimize possibilities growth in the long run.
Why should you adopt design thinking?
Now the question comes to mind - what is new about these practices? Businesses have always tried to do their best to serve the customers. And there have been some really good products in the industry that the world looks up to even today.
Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Walt Disney and several such time tested brands prove that great products and brands existed before the concept of design thinking came into prominence. So what were the gaps in the traditional business practices that design thinking culture is able to fill?
Perhaps, the answer to that lies in fact that the competition was less. At present, most companies are struggling to differentiate their products in the market. Further, the way technology has become an integral part of businesses, it has majorly impacted the way interactions happen between colleagues, or with customers.
Several years ago, getting a landline connection used to be a tedious process. The same is said about booking an Ambassador car. These were perhaps the best examples of product oriented businesses. Of course, the industry has come a long way since then. And the approach continually evolved towards being customer centric.
In this regard, the only differentiation that design thinking brings to the table is empathy and an intent to create a 'Wow' effect at every touchpoint and interaction. Design thinking does not differentiate between a colleague, a customer, investor or any other business associate. It only emphasizes creating an incredible experience all across and for everyone.
So what happens when you write an email to your client by applying the design thinking? - They want to sign up with you as soon as possible because they believe that you truly understand their problem and will solve it for them.
What happens when you hand over some task to your colleague in the same manner? - It brings a smile on their face and they look forward to working with you. It improves the working environment.
What happens when you take the same approach in dealing with your customers? - They not only come back to you, but they also recommend you to others.
Design thinking has brought 'one-to-one experience' at the core of interactions in business. And this is the real super power of business teams that practice design thinking.
How design thinking has impacted brands?
Let's take the example of Tesla's cubertruck. Who designs an electric cybertruck with 400-600 km mileage when fully charged, 14,000 pounds towing capacity, on-board power inverters, auto pilot, and a bullet-proof 30X cold-rolled stainless steel body just to grab attention?
Elon Musk invested in this model just to see how people from all over the world react to it and channelise the insights to develop future products. Going forward, their sedans were far more superior than all other automobile brands. It set a benchmark in terms of the range, affordability, and pick up as compared to other electric cars.
Tesla's design thinking process helped them to create headlines as they pitched the idea and then led the insights to bring about unmatched innovation. And in all this, the one core quest they had was - to add value to their customers.
Disney applied the design thinking approach when they created the VR character of Doc. McStuffins in a Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. They empathised with kids and tried to reduce their stress and boredom while sitting in the hospital's waiting rooms.
Disney created this character with several other stuffed toy animals to keep the kids happily engaged and stress-free.
How is Design Thinking practiced?
So far, we have discussed how the culture of design thinking impacts the overall work culture and helps companies to scale up unprecedented growth. Now, we will see how design thinking is practiced?
Empathy - Empathy helps to identify an improvement opportunity. It helps you to keep the needs of the user of your product at the center.
For that you have to identify and define their real problems. In the above example, Tesla pitched an aspirational product that felt like prayers being answered for the users of an electric truck. And Disney understood the anxiety and stress of kids sitting in the waiting room of a hospital and tried to get rid of that by engaging them with something enjoyable. Success was guaranteed in both the cases as it gave the users more than what they could even think of as a solution to their problems.
Cognitive paths/ destinations - The word cognition refers to perception, or mental impulse of a person through thoughts, observation, and experiences. Design thinking teaches you to use cognitive strategies to approach one particular situation in all possible ways. How?
By understanding human psychology and behavior. Any interaction/product/service that is human-centered has to have deep knowledge about the human mind and how it influences their decisions/actions. It helps you to understand their problems better and also indicates their propensity to react negatively or positively to a given solution.
Creative thinking - There could be several starting points with the same or even diverse destinations. It is all about keeping your mind open to possibilities and trying to find an alternative opening for every roadblock that comes in the way. Creative thinking helps you to achieve that.
Collaborative Processes - It involves involving other people and brainstorming together for the best possible outcome of your creative initiative/endeavor/product.
Together you can come up with unique and innovative solutions for the problems. It also helps to iterate and explore the scope of the product or optimize the solution.
Thus, a continual process of implementing design thinking practices helps to improve the performance of an organization in a holistic manner. The intent to make state-of-the-art at every attempt and getting a 'Wow' reaction from everyone your work interacts with - is sure to make you the only 'go-to' in your domain.
In a nutshell…
Embrace design thinking, provide freedom for innovation and space for failures. Apply design thinking approach through empathetic observation, realizing and deeply understanding a problem/opportunity. Use this understanding to come up with innovative solutions. Continue the same approach to keep optimizing the solution.
Need we say more on why you must embrace design NOW?