Posts Tagged ‘New Economy’

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“DESIGN THINKING IS THE NEXT COMPETITIVE EDGE”

April 29, 2010

When I left the corporate world, I freed my innovative designer self from the constraints of keeping thoughts of consistent outcomes, proof, and best practices guide my every waking moment, and allowed myself the freedom to see the world as a place that welcomes new ideas and lets me do meaningful work to make a difference.

Oh yes, the successes of that past life left me with an understanding and appreciation for that old world of efficiency and predictability. I continued to use those skills to manage my business, as well as when interacting with my client and designing events to meet desired outcomes. So instinctively, I have been able to maintain a good balance between those two differing mindsets. Little did I know that would become the wave of the future, predicted by some to be the evolving business model that will fuel the “New Economy”.

But lately in what I term my own version of “When I get old, I shall wear purple”, I may have allowed myself to tip a bit too far into this “wonderfully open and optimistic way of being.”

So it was good to be reminded by Roger Martin in his recent book THE DESIGN OF BUSINESS of some great guidelines – that will help make his prediction that “Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Edge” come to fruition.

As background, Martin postulates there must be balance between Innovation which explores problems whose solutions can’t be found in past experience or proven by data and the Efficiency model most companies obsessively rely upon. Both are needed to regularly generate breakthroughs and create value for an organization. His model proposes a reconciliation between the prevailing point of view of the Creatives who deliver a world of originality and invention but normally are not sustainable long-term, and the tried and true Analytical organization that build size and scale and carefully maintain status quo.

Martin suggests that neither do well alone in today’s world and the business world would be well-served to integrate these two diverse approaches into one in order to achieve a competitive edge going forward.

What particularly resonated with me were five things that designers must do to be more effective with colleagues that sit at the extreme of the reliability spectrum in the corporate world:

1. Reframe the extreme views as a creative challenge. Designers must embrace the challenge to find creative ways to help the analytic see value in looking at a creative solution

2. Empathize with that colleague. Too often the designer shows lack of respect for the analytic which only leads to rejection. Designer must be mindful that we are responsible for understanding the client needs and wishes. Engage to learn what they are worried about; what is their greatest hope or worry. Learn what would be minimally acceptable conditions needed for them to embrace the design solution. How much risk will they be willing to absorb?

3. Learn to speak their language. Productivity, consistent outcomes, proof, best practices are comforting. Break-through, new to the world, and “awesome” are considered dangerous, and uncertain or guesswork are downright scary!

4. Translate unfamiliar terms of the design world into familiar terms the analytic can understand. Learn to use analogies as a means to provide substantiation based on past events. Encourage sharing of data and reasoning but not conclusions.

5. When it comes to proof, use size to advantage.

In summary, designers need to appreciate legitimate differences, seek to communicate on client terms, using tools with which they will be familiar, and stretch out of our own comfort zones to understand and interact in the comfort zones of the client.

This all makes sense to me and I am chagrined to think I needed to be told that so many opportunities for improvement lie before us. These are simple suggestions to keep in mind that can help each of us in this industry. If we want corporate business, we need to understand corporations and their needs and put away forever, the idea that a great idea for a WOW event will automatically liberate those buckets full of dollars being stored someplace to fund parties. We need to use our skills to understand our customer before we can see the pathway to meet their needs.

At the same time, since I know advancing knowledge is a core drive for me, I’m glad I stumbled onto this whole new approach to design of business philosophy that has been growing and tested in universities across North America for the last 5-10 years. I think I can catch-up and get back on track so I can remain an informed and competitive player as the economy goes through this latest great transformation – predicted, by the way, before we knew about the Great Recession of 2007-2010!

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