5 Ways To Adopt Design Thinking
Design is in the C-Suite. So what happens now?
The cheers can be heard from art school classrooms, from behind drawing tablets in design studios and in long forgotten cubicles occupied by internal creative teams living in corporate purgatory. Design has won, it is now at the boardroom table. What will smart executives do with this opportunity? Design leaders are ready to introduce the world to Design Thinking. You know, that inherent, natural, gut-driven process that creatives ‘just get’ and take for granted? This process has finally been plotted out, studied, reviewed, processed and found to be one of the magical markers of success.
So what do you do with it? How can companies get that critical advantage when design is no longer their competitive advantage, but another barrier to entry? Today, I’ve tackled five key ways companies can adopt Design Thinking, and offered possible solutions to get the most out of them.
1. Innovation is driven by Design Thinking
Over the past decade, we have witnessed the vast majority of consumer-focused companies embrace design thinking to not only improve their user experience but to also drive innovation. It has become so critical that Fortune 500 companies are now reporting that it is one of their top three priorities. By adopting the processes pioneered in the creative industry companies can reap the benefits of iterative rounds of ideation, stripping an idea, concept or process down to its purest form and analyzing and modifying it.
Steve Jobs infamously sent his designers back to the drawing board after designing and prototyping the first iPod – a design that any other company would have launched on the spot – Jobs knew that this design was what the world was expecting, so the team stripped it down further, to what we now know as one of the greatest industrial design pieces of modern time.
Innovation is born from a strong, data-informed cycle; user experience informs design, that drives innovation which responds to user experience.
Solution: If you have not embraced Design Thinking, start today. If you have but it has failed to take hold, it’s time to re-evaluate your processes to find the right implementation.
2. User experience is at the core of Design Thinking
Historically, there have been clear distinctions between design disciplines; industrial = 3D, graphic = 2D, interior = inside spaces, and so on. With the advent of digital design, industrial and graphic have blurred. Throw experiential marketing into the mix and now architecture, interior design, industrial, graphic and UI design have become one large melting pot all focused on delivering exceptional user experience.
Smart companies are investing heavily in building design-driven customer experiences, and we’re just getting started. Consumers can expect UX designers to work their magic into all facets of the consumer and the corporate world in the years and decades to come.
Speaking on why design matters is Daan Roosegaarde, Founder of Studio Roosegaarde, “design matters because it is about triggering curiosity, it’s about thinking about the future.” With so much focus and attention on user experience, it’s clear that design will slowly eclipse more traditional marketing efforts. Roosegaard continues, “design has never been about a chair, a lamp, a table. So how can we use design to improve technology, to improve life? For me, this is the essence of design”
Solution: Start filling your teams with UX designers, even if they don’t seem applicable to your product or service. The value they’ll add in their thinking could change the entire narrative.
3. Design Thinking isn’t a trend, it’s a driving business principle
Business is built on best practices, trial and error, risk taking and above all, innovating to stay relevant. At the core of this is Design Thinking. “I think the need for design is something more and more executives are starting to understand,” says Derrick Kiker, Partner, McKinsey & Company. “It became something that wasn’t around the art of creating beautiful things, but around developing something more fact-based, around what the people like, what do they need. What is going to complete experiences for them”
While the C-Suite has always (sometimes begrudgingly) understood that their customers are at the core of their business, the focus has only recently come around to understanding the customer’s experience with their product or service. “Depending on how you place a device, the instructions, and how the thing unboxes and presents all the information; if it’s not done the right way, you get people who fail to use the product correctly” states Ernesto Quinteros, Chief Design Officer at Johnson & Johnson. By giving customers a complete experience from the moment they open the box, through the lifecycle of the product, understanding how people use and experience the product is paramount in building brand evangelists.
Solution: Weigh different Design Thinking methodologies and apply the right one for your business.
4. The demand for design leadership will continue to grow – hire now
There is no question that with the business world adopting Design Thinking and design leadership as part of its core ethos, that the demand for Design Leadership will only continue to grow. Consistently, hiring managers report that finding candidates in high-demand talent pools is their top challenge. Design thinkers, user experience gurus, design leaders, and design strategists count among the most in-demand roles today.
Using Design Thinking to parse all the data is also a major factor in the success of design leaders, as is witnessed by a recent LinkedIn global recruiting trend study. The role data plays in Design Thinking cannot be overlooked. It is critical for any company to develop, SME or enterprise, data-driven design leadership to continue to innovate and stay relevant to their customers. In the past companies could compete in the ‘burger wars’ – selling near-identical products, mediocre design, and a fight over price and territory – but the future will be owned by companies differentiating themselves with good design and fighting other companies through great design. The competitive advantage will be won through internal design leadership, not just user experience alone.
Solution: Give designers positions of power.
5. Real design leaders are hard to find
The best design leaders are already out there. Senior designers who cut their teeth in advertising agencies and design studios alike who toil over client briefs day in and out. Others have moved over to the corporate side and are leading internal creative teams. The reality is that the talent is here, and probably sitting in your office now. The question is, have you as a leader, harnessed them yet?
The best design leaders tend to keep their heads down and create astonishing things. Those that are most boastful tend to be juniors (design leaders are senior, directors, executives with decades of experience) or simply posers looking to talk their way into a ‘cool’ job.
True design leaders understand that “this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to people on the ground that you care about them, the way that you create gives them dignity, “ says Mokena Makeka, Founder, Makeka Design Lab. “You’re already beginning to elevate people’s conscientious and helping them to get out of their circumstances, encouraging them and showing that you believe in them. This is why I believe good design is a human right.”
Taking that understanding further, the quiet, focused design leader knows that “a large part of design is just the ordinary grunt of making the burden of being a human being on this planet a little bit more pleasurable.” With ideas like this, and a passion to unleash their creative way of thinking upon the world at large, it’s no wonder true design leaders are sought after far and wide.
Solution: When contracting a recruiter, ensure that they have creative recruitment abilities. Better yet, grab one of your internal creatives, or someone from your agency to sit in on interviews and meetings to get their professional opinion.
While we’re in the early stages of Design Thinking, agile companies have already started to reap the rewards of enhanced, data-driven user experiences. As every designer knows, great design starts with the user, not the sketch pad.