Design Thinking – Helping to Create a Quantum Leap in Strategic Innovation

by Idris Mootee

Design Thinking - Helping to Create a Quantum Leap in Strategic InnovationLately I have been meeting with dozens of potential candidates who are seriously interested and passionate about design thinking and understand the role it plays in transforming organizations, design thinking can help companies to make the next quantum jump in organization, human and social evolution? It is a new managerial logic as well as competitive logic and in then years every business school will have this in their core curriculum. The problem is there are far more people interested in it and not many understand the ‘what’ and ‘how’. I am getting an average of ten resumes a week and most people think design thinking is super cool.

The relationship between design thinking, system thinking and strategic innovation are pretty muddy and many conversation and writing are mostly around the simple notions of observational research, prototyping and design. We’ve beaten that one to death long time ago and many of these conversations are missing the point.

I don’t think design thinking has come to a point when it is over hyped nor it has come to a point where people truly understand what it means and how to apply it. There is a design perspective, an engineer perspective and a business perspective to it. The challenge for many is the ‘how’, beyond telling people you need to be creative. Here is good piece on design thinking from Will Novosedlik’s blog.

So far there are no empirical studies that look at a directed implementation of design thinking in business with the aim of improving strategic competitiveness, innovation capability and business performance. We don’t usually ask for a business case of HR, legal, compliance, risk management or strategy department, why are we asking for design thinking investment business case? Another reason for lack of concrete evidence is that is it is hard (and wrong) to compartmentalize design thinking into the format of a method, process or tool. Rather the approach should resemble an emergent learning journey where rapid experimentation, broadening of new perspectives and challenging of dogmas needs to be at the fore.

Design thinking is an emerging discipline and our work to date is a work-in-progress. It is not about getting brilliant ideas from the minds of geniuses or creative superstars. We don’t want creative superstars; we want people who understand cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration and the importance of rigor, play, balance and discipline to create elegant objects, solutions and systems.

I have a great respect for Tim Brown who introduced the word design thinking although we have a very different definition and approach to it. He is a designer at heart and I am a strategist. Our jobs are similar which is to help identify patterns where others see complexity and confusion; we synthesize ideas from seemingly disparate fragments; and uncover solutions new opportunities. Design thinking is a method in which genius is not needed, just ordinary people with a lot of commonsense and empathy.

It has been a very productive week in Vienna talking to many interesting people including the organizer of Vienna Design Week and I am thinking about doing a special feature for our next issue. Vienna is an interesting city where it has a history of music and engineering, the two very different or similar domains depend how you look at it.

In addition to music, Austria has made a name for itself with the electronic engineering of customized electronics like microprocessors and integrated circuits for airbags, ABS braking systems and components for airplanes and high-speed trains etc.

I was staying at the top floor of Das Triest, loving it. The hotel is in the fourth district, which is set back about ten minutes straight walk from the city center. An old hotel that was transformed into a luxurious, warm and unique contemporary design hotel by Sir Terence Conran, it was the first design hotel in Austria. The building was originally used as a stable for horses pulling stagecoaches between Vienna and Trieste – hence its name, “City of Trieste.” The hotel design provides a sharp contrast to the city 19th-century Art Nouveau architecture. It has a lovely courtyard garden, which reflects Sir Terence Conran design philosophy and give a sense of Viennese flair with a little English touch. Perfect for Viennese summer party.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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