We have all been involved in ‘design thinking’ or ‘brainstorming’ sessions whose intent was to find something new: new ideas, new solutions, a new offering, or a new strategy. Most of these sessions are conducted in the same environments (mindset and culture) as business as usual activities. This may have created the impression that Design Thinking is a series of fun activities, with an easy multi-step process and requires hardly any difference in thinking from the usual day-to-day activities.
But we have all come away from many of these sessions feeling disappointed, either by the output of the sessions themselves or by the lack of effect, momentum or follow-up afterwards. One way or another the result is that these activities just don’t work and do not make any difference.
In the meantime, we are struggling on a daily basis to keep up with changes and challenges which never cease but only increase, when we are faced with new technologies, new forms of competition, and increasingly profound and interconnected issues: working harder the same way doesn’t seem to solve these issues either.
A better-suited and more effective approach is needed, not just for keeping up with the changes imposed on us, but also to get on top of our challenges, and to get ahead.
Design Thinking is an approach for exploring a complex environment with the aim to discover new possibilities and test opportunities
that can be of exceptional value.
One major difference with other initiatives is that Design Thinking does not aim to achieve a predetermined output. Instead, the outcomes, and even the process taken (not followed!), is a result of a progressive understanding of the problem, of the environment, and of possible outcomes. The quality of the process determines to a large extent the quality and quantity of possible outcomes.
Design Thinking is more about exploration and discovery, and less about product development and delivery. It has a different process and very different ‘artifacts’. The practice of Design Thinking also requires different Capabilities. Some examples of these include: Abductive Reasoning, Rapid Mode-Switching, Reflective Practice and (Re)Framing.
Not only are these Capabilities different from the ones used to maintain and improve business-as-usual, they also require different mindsets and cultures to enable and support them. Particular elements of the required mindset include Curiosity and Imagination, and Psychological Safety, Diversity and Exploration as part of the supportive culture.
The key to Design Thinking is an ability to create a unique, efficient and effective process for the task at hand. The much needed exceptional outcomes depend on the rigor, depth and quality of this process and thus on the capabilities, mindset, and (corporate) culture.
As one of the mindset foundations (the Uncertainty & Ambiguity element) as part of this guide indicates: it is in the realm of the unknown, the uncertain and the ambiguous that exceptional opportunities and value can be found.
All elements of the 3 Foundations described in this guide enable those involved to create a process, to navigate the complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity of the environment and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the task.