Design thinking has become the buzzword in corporate world today. The concept has gathered a lot of importance because a majority of corporations operate with analytical thinking and are being constantly disrupted by changing trends and consumer values. Consumers cling on to freshness and novelty, and appreciate organisations who offer them products and services according to their taste. Consumers don’t pay heed to an organisation’s failures; today, brand loyalty remains only in textbooks. Clearly, marketing myopia kills existence of organisations. Let’s look at a few examples such as Sony’s reluctance to develop a competent digital Walkman opened gates for Apple’s iPod. Blockbuster was approached by Netflix in 2000 about forming a partnership; Blockbuster laughed off Netflix, and then went bankrupt when it couldn’t compete with its web-based competitor. Kodak took its position and success granted that it completely missed the rise of digital technologies. When organisations lack value-creation capability and don’t respond to the market in time, customers write them off.
Design thinking is a formal method for practical and creative thinking, with the intent to improve future results. In this regard, it is a form of solution-based thinking which starts with a goal of finding a better solution for a futuristic situation. Design thinking is abstract in comparison to analytical thinking; it is also intuitive. It considers both present and future conditions and parameters of the problem; alternative solutions can be explored alongside.
To innovate, businesses must have the capacity to design products and services artistically. Marketers need to design, create and blend products internally within the organisation, for which they need to foster creativity at each stage of business. Pioneers like Tim Brown and Roger Martin were at the forefront to really shift the role of design in business from noun to verb. Design thinking helps in responding to changing trends and consumer behaviours, and gaining competitive advantage in differentiating products and services. And this ultimately impacts the bottom line and drives business growth. In its purest context, value creation comes from designers because they are naturally inclined to creative thinking; their minds are trained in the techniques and methods to produce new values. However, designers can create only when predictable processes are available, otherwise they produce new values with ambiguity. This is a big problem for organisations because executives initially cannot comprehend what, when, why and how.
Also, a designer’s artistic process and mindset are often ambiguous, muddled and random by nature. It is difficult for managers to follow and set in design thinking initially as part of organisational process. It takes designing and redesigning business processes to replicate creative outcome. Hence, organisations prefer to blend design process into a step-by-step process.
Indra Nooyi, president and CEO of PepsiCo, brought in Mauro Porcini as first-ever chief design officer in 2012. Porcini is responsible for leading innovation at PepsiCo by design across the company’s food and beverage portfolio, extending from physical to virtual expressions of the brands, including product, packaging, events, retail activation, architecture and digital media. The company did a search, and found that Porcini had achieved great designing success at 3M. According to Nooyi, since then, design influences nearly each important decision that her company takes. Nooyi says that she visits the market every week to see how her products look like on the shelves. When you visit a shop or a mall, usually you see the shelves are cluttered with varied brands. Some products always stand out even in clutter—these are the well-designed products. Nooyi wants her customers to have a pleasurable experience; therefore PepsiCo works right from conception to what’s on the shelf to the post-product experience.
According to Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO, “Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Design thinking was adapted for business purposes by David M Kelley (born February 10, 1951), who is an American businessman, designer, engineer and professor at Stanford University. He founded IDEO in 1991 and is a managing partner of the firm today. The firm employs over 600 people in a number of disciplines including behavioural science, branding, business design, communication design, design research, digital design, education, electrical engineering, environments design, food science, healthcare services, industrial design, interaction design, mechanical engineering, organisational design, and software engineering.
Some of the organisations are pioneers to start design thinking effectively. These are GE Healthcare, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Philips Electronics (PHG). In addition to hiring design thinkers from schools, they have developed in-house programmes to bring people from all functions of the organisation to think through designing lens. To build empathy with users, a design-centric organisation empowers employees to observe behaviour and draw conclusions about what customers want and need. Those conclusions are tremendously difficult to be expressed in quantitative language. Instead, those organisations which understand emotional language engage continuously with customers; their team members discuss the emotional resonance of a value proposition as much as they discuss utility and product requirements.
For design thinking, people need in-depth interactions with technologies and to simplify other complex systems. The design thinkers need to be given a free hand to innovate; organisations need to have a tolerance for failure initially. Not all innovations click at one go. Organisations need to cultivate a culture of interactions and developing quick responses. The focus of each employee in a company should be on customers’ comfort and satisfaction.