Why You Need to Establish a Design-Thinking Culture Across the Enterprise

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Design thinking is moving out of the shadow of product development and closer to the center of the enterprise to drive innovation.

The shift toward applying design thinking is a response to the need for speed, innovation and breakthrough solutions to address today’s complex business challenges. Forward-thinking organizations are focused on creating design-centric cultures that foster new ideas and reshape old ones. The following are 3 critical keys to the successful scaling of design thinking.

1. Envision the future by creating shared understanding. A dichotomy exists between managers and designers. Managers are planners and have to rely on the past and the present to project the future. Designers, however, are taught to break from the past to build for the future. They are tasked with creating or recreating, which results in change and requires collaboration and buy-in throughout the process.

Employing design thinking across an organization requires managers to think like designers and designers to think like managers. It bridges that gap and encourages a healthy dialogue about what’s worked and what hasn’t. The design thinking process generates new, shared insights. Great ideas emerge based on a mashup of ideas in ways that haven’t previously been considered. Breakthroughs come from the recombination and reframing of ideas, both old and new.

“To realize its full value, design thinking must be pushed beyond Innovation Centers to everyone in the organization, with the goal of improving all aspects of the enterprise, not just product development.”

2. Invest in your talent to embed a mindset and skillset. Design thinking forces organizations to decide if “up-skilling” existing talent or hiring new talent will result in the best outcomes, both short-term and long-term. A Harvard Business Review spotlight focused on Samsung’s multi-year effort to transform their business to a global innovator. Senior managers thought the best approach would be to bring in a well-known Korean designer to lead this monumental change. Lee Kun-Hee, Samsung’s chairman, thought otherwise.

In his quest to develop in-house design capabilities across the organization, faculty members from a renowned art school were brought in to deliver custom in-house training that transformed the company’s talent into strategic thinkers who were fully invested in the mission and future direction, resulting in an increased level of tenacity to overcome resistance, influence others, implement change and drive innovation.

Lee’s vision and dedication to up-skilling existing talent helped launch its global-leading mobile division, and gave rise to its domination of the global television market.

3. Ensure alignment between organizational culture and business objectives. To empower teams to be design thinkers, senior executives must focus on aligning culture and structure with strategy. Ananthan Thandri, VP & CIO, Mentor Graphics provided more insight in The Argyle Journal.

“Taking the time to explain an organization’s goals and how employees can help it achieve these aspirations can be incredibly empowering” he said. Communicating the important values and expected behaviors, such as risk taking, openness to new ideas, rapid decision making and willingness to fail fast, all emerge from a culture of transparency and openness that starts at the top.

  • How do you kill design thinking?
  • Fear the unknown
  • Resist change
  • Squelch different thinking
  • Fear risk taking
  • Isolate strategy from execution

Design thinking allows organizations to thrive in today’s ever-changing landscape. To realize its full value, design thinking must be pushed beyond “Innovation Centers” to everyone in the organization, with the goal of improving all aspects of the enterprise, not just product development. It requires the right mindset and toolset embedded in a culture that supports risk taking, divergent thinking and freedom to collaborate.

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