Design Thinking started as an approach to develop complex solutions in the field of engineering in the 1950s. Peter Rowe (1987) was the first to use the term, Design Thinking, when he wrote the book of the same name. The broad appeal of Design Thinking as way of dealing with large complex, global, and difficult to solve problems occurred in 1992 when Design Thinking is first associated with wicked problems (Richard Buchanan, 1992). Over the last fifty plus years Design Thinking has evolved and is integral to technology transformations and emerging tech industries, as a process, a methodology, and as a mindset that transforms individuals and teams.
Any new or emerging tech, markets, or any industry where the market is constantly changing suits the agility of Design Thinking, as a mindset, an approach, a methodology, and a process for improving systems or taking an idea and getting it to market. Design Thinking helps leaders achieve their digital transformations goals, as well as their growth goals, penetrate, and capture new markets, find new revenue streams, or expand their existing market share.
When bringing new tech offerings to market, investors and CFOs are keen on Design Thinking as a way of mitigating the risk of designing a singular solution. With Design Thinking the risk and investment of resources are spread across smaller opportunities. The team test each opportunity, then evaluate it and validate it with customers. The customer-centric process involves collaborating with and learning from future or existing customers. Customers are very much co-designers and collaborators.
Customers collaborate by providing valuable feedback on what works well and what doesn’t. Customers also rate and rank their preferences and provide ideas on the “must haves” as well as the “nice to haves” enabling the teams to prioritize their minimal viable product offering (solution) and the next iterations. Using Design Thinking, teams address customer feedback by searching for solutions that help to develop new offerings or to improve the customer experience and delight the customer.
Design Thinking helps businesses in the midst of digital transformations, as teams design new digital platforms, new digital systems, and processes alongside the development of customer-centric solutions. Each team is collaborating within an ecosystem with people at its center. The people are the stakeholders: this includes the various employees, the designers, the customers, the backend, and the front-end developers as well as the investors.
Design Thinking isn’t just about a customer-centric approach or process for designing delightful experiences or new solutions to small, medium, large, and wicked problems. Design Thinking is also about individual and team mindsets. Design Thinking contributes to the strengthening of growth mindsets within individuals and teams.
As teams become more experienced with Design Thinking as a process, there is a notable shift in the culture and mindset of the team, and teams are notably happier and producing higher quality impactful outcomes. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any failures. What most people call failures are “learnings.” The process enables the team to quickly learn what doesn’t work. Learning what doesn’t work is an important step in learning what does work. Design Thinking builds resilience, stronger mindsets, happier teams, and productive outcomes.
Some leaders tell us that using Design Thinking approaches, tools, and frameworks is a bit like putting on a superhero’s cape. They talk about the changes they see in their people and their mindsets. They also talk about the confidence their people have when faced with uncertainty, complex problems, or ambiguous situations. Their people feel empowered to experiment and to work through a range of possible solutions, optimising their learning, as they progress and move forward to optimal outcomes. The changes in their people’s mindsets doesn’t happen overnight, it happens over time and with constant Design Thinking application, experimentation, and learning from their experiences.
When multiple teams are using Design Thinking across a Company we’ve seen marked improvements in engagement, productivity, happiness, and in culture. The possible uses for Design Thinking in an organisation are endless. With Design Thinking the search for people centric solutions comes first, and the technology second. If the technology doesn’t yet exist, through Design Thinking approaches technology solutions continue to evolve. You can apply Design Thinking across any tech, any profession, any size problem, your homelife, yourself, your team, or your business unit. The notable difference is when used on a regular basis Design Thinking improves and strengthen your mindset and helps to build resilience and happier people outcomes.