Design Thinking has come to the fore as a discipline that many believe can help businesses to solve complex problems. In this article, we take a detailed look how a Design Thinking mindset can foster growth and solve complex problems.

We all know the world we live in is changing and evolving at an ever growing rate of change. The rise of the experience economy, emerging technologies such as the internet of things and the commoditisation of knowledge are driving changes in the way in which we work, and forcing businesses to reinvent business models and the methods they use to create and design solutions. A recent World Economic Forum publication affirmed these changes in the business environment with their predictions around the Top 10 skills that will be most in demand by 2020. Complex problem solving has emerged as the top skill on this list as businesses seek out professionals with the ability to unpack problems and successfully navigate to a solution that isn’t necessarily obvious to the naked eye.

Design Thinking has come to the fore as a discipline that many believe can help businesses to solve these complex problems as they endeavour to design human-centric experiences and solutions for customers. So where does this new wave of Design Thinking sit when lined up against the traditional disciplines and definitions of design? In simple terms, it is all to do with the types of problems being solved.

‘Traditional’ design centres largely around the 1st and 2nd orders of design. Here we will be looking at things like graphic design and visual representation in the 1st order, and into industrial design, e.g. mobile apps and physical solutions at the 2nd order. It is when we delve into the 3rd and 4th orders that Design Thinking really comes into play since this is often where the more complex problems lie – the “smelly problems”, as our course author, Craig Martin calls them. Here we move into experiential and strategic design, looking at services and large-scale, complex issues which require us to deeply understand the needs of our citizens, customers and employees in order to deliver more valued and successful solutions.

For many this is a fundamental shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. This shift has to occur for both individuals and the organisations that they work for. In order to really get to grips with these complex problems we need to tackle traditional, linear ways of thinking about problems and the ways in which we solve them. Let’s take a look at the contrasting mindsets that we might see at both ends of the spectrum.

Ben is working in a traditional business that is not embracing design and human-centric solutions. The business is very fixed in its ways. They analyse their customer through tried and tested data analysis and come up with incremental, low-risk ideas to enhance their products and services. Ben spends a lot of his time managing risk and writing in-depth business cases to justify major investments. This narrow-minded focus leaves Ben avoiding new experiences and with a high degree of uncertainty. As a result, Ben’s business will only take small incremental steps, but ironically through big, high risk waterfall-based delivery. They will fail more often when they are required to enter new horizons due to their unwillingness to embrace change and their desire to stick with what they know.

Let’s compare that with Melanie’s business, there is a vast difference in their mindsets. Melanie’s business is very focused on adopting a growth mindset and deeply understanding the needs of their customers. They want to explore growth opportunities for the business and to that end they look to act quickly and place small bets that will either fail fast, scale fast, or lead to opportunities for success in new horizons.

Melanie is much more willing than Ben to accept uncertainty and seek new experiences in order to open new horizons and embark on a journey of learning and adaptation. With this mindset, Melanie will be much better equipped to manage risk through action; look for hidden growth opportunities, and to adopt an empathy based approach to design and complex problem solving. 

Our Design Thinking in Business course follows a 6 step process to help you solve complex problems more effectively. We also help you understand the mindset shift needed to move from linear, systematic thinking to one that embraces chaos, human-centricity and the abstract nature of complex problems. With this mindset you can look to embrace new situations and seek out growth opportunities in the market. We also look at how you integrate these solutions into your business through architecture and agile delivery to ensure a successful incorporation of new products and services into business operations, which in turn allows you to scale-fast when necessary.

During the course, we will work through a real-life problem space to demonstrate the tools and techniques of the Design process in action. We start with the Prepare stage where we will get everything ready to start the design journey and understand which problems are actually suited to being tackled using a Design Thinking process. From here, we embark on the Discover phase which focuses on research and exploring the problem space in more detail. Next up is the Definition phase which synthesises all of the data and insights and allows us to arrive at a validated point of view to take forward into ideation. The Develop phase is all about generating concepts and rapid prototyping to test ideas. In the Deliver stage we then take these prototypes into the real-world before refining and creating a final version or product that is ready for production. The course also covers a final stage called Launch which covers how the product or solution will be integrated into existing operations, services or product offerings of the business and its customers and thus enabling the business to scale-fast when required.

To find out more about our Design Thinking in Business course, simply click here.

Author
Danny Graham