Why Design Thinking Matters

Why Design Thinking Matters

Design thinking in everyday vernacular risks becoming an obsolete term used thrown around to add “cool factor”, sometimes an effort to woo the client with a new way of problem solving. The overused term has lost its meaning and its misuse has misplaced its true essence.

You see Design Thinking is a tool, a fun way to problem solve old business problems. It’s not a panacea for all that’s upside down in the world. It can be cool, and yes, it can be used to flirt with old challenges in a nouvelle manner. The success is dependent on all players bringing curiosity, willingness to explore, experiment, act silly, be willing to fail, and at all times keeping an open attitude and an open mind. My best sessions have been multi-day boot camps and training with start-ups and students. They are brave, curious, unburdened by the conformity rules of the business world and ask questions that can push the group to art of possibility.

“The mind is like a parachute. It works best when open.”

Curiosity, almost childlike curiosity, is the secret to unlocking the mindset needed for players to explore, experiment, learn what worked, didn’t work, alter the experiment, test a different route than originally planned and have fun along the way. Most of all, players must be willing to risk letting go of their brainchild million-dollar idea, their ego / status and be willing to come up with new, different, and sometimes crazy ideas that they will work on. The route of applying design can be uncomfortable and the end is often unknown, nevertheless like the makings of a good mystery, the fun is in following the trail (business challenge), the players (users), throwing curveballs (barriers), and with a caste of mixed actors (stakeholders with different expertise and unique view of challenge)

Political players focused on personality instead of the business challenges. Lest they are willing to check egos and politics at the door, they are the unwilling participants and can derail energy and conversation. Participants unwilling to give up the mic are the party poopers taking everyone down.

Design thinking tactics requires even the most seasoned coaches to learn and unlearn, study innovation trends and be willing to switch techniques real time based on their audience and the environment. The worse experience I can have is to have players with a fixed mindset unwilling to play.

When do you apply it?

Is there a problem with a user (customer) and you want to understand the user persona, their habits, interaction with a product or service? Maybe you are tackling a challenge that has not yet been solved, or needs new perspective? A solution that needs to be move to the digital world? An early idea that needs to be fleshed out? A concept that requires testing? An idea that needs a low-fidelity prototype? Have dissatisfied customers unhappy with online engagement or product features? If you have answered yes to any of the questions pick up human-centered design and apply it to the stage you are in: understanding the challenge, learning who the user is, experimenting early solutions, prototyping and learning from the process.

To study a user whether individual or group, be a curious detective observing habits, behaviors and patterns, and at times become an anthropologist studying the evolution of the problem and behavioral trends.

How do I learn DT?

Acumen+ offers courses on a rolling basis. If you sign on, your learning curve will be richer if you organize a team of colleagues or friends to do it with you. Sometimes you can join an open group. IDEO University also offers courses online. OPEN SAP offers introductions on Developing Software using Design Thinking democratizing our quest to humanize the online and digital interaction.

Whichever book, training, or resource you pick up, put it into practice right away. Be willing to toddle along before you learn to stand.

By Ruma Sumdani
Nov, 2018
(Ruma is Partner at Mentors Fund and a Design Thinking Expert at SAP)