Design Thinking: 7 Reasons Why Your Leadership Team Should Embrace It

6 min read
Ben Logan
Service Design
Design Research

Design Thinking is not a new concept and has been around for decades.  Existing businesses need to improve their current value propositions and proactively create new ones.  In this article we explore 7 reasons why your Leadership team should embrace Design Thinking to help you gain a competitive advantage.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future. In its simplest form, Design Thinking is a process of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems. It is not limited to a specific industry or area of expertise.

“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” - Tim Brown CEO, IDEO

Why bother embracing Design Thinking?

You are all extremely busy people with a packed daily schedule and under significant pressure to deliver. This makes it even more essential to look into the not too distant future and embrace the opportunities that can come about through Design Thinking.

1. Increase revenue

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit companies that prioritize investment in customer experience (CX) have better revenue growth (59% vs. 40%) and are more profitable (64% vs. 47%) than companies where CX is not a priority.

2. Beat your competitors

Your competition may already be doing work in this space. You need to innovate to get ahead of the competition. We all know what happened to Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster!

3. Customers are vital

The Leadership team need to get closer to their customers. We are not talking about vanity metrics such as the Net Promoter Score, but really understanding the customer in detail. Design Thinking makes the customer the main focal point of design for any solution rather than obsessing on features.

4.Understanding your customer journeys

Understanding the customer journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey toward buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible. Many executives don’t even know the many pain points their customers experience on a day to day basis.

5. Innovation cycles are too slow

Failure to speed up innovation cycles and not working in a more customer-centric way can mean that you simply get left behind. The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading US companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, according to Professor Richard Foster from Yale University (BBC).

6. Leverage the power of collective expertise

Design Thinking encourages multidisciplinary teams to come together within the ogranisation.  Often the best ideas are right under your nose, you just haven’t enabled the right people to come together to make it happen…..yet.

7. You might be too close to your own business

Design Thinking gives you the opportunity to view a problem from a different perspective with different viewpoints. Asking the same people and doing the same thing day in day out will not encourage you to view things differently.

Challenges you need to be ready for

So first of all I need to put a massive caveat in here as this is not an easy task.  If it was easy, then everyone would be doing this, right? There are going to be challenges ahead, and we thought it was best to give you some suggestions on the areas we think you will need to take action on. In fact, we would go as far as to say that you are going to hit a brick wall if you do not do these things.

  1. You may need to reorganise your entire design department – You need to set clear parameters for the different design departments and put energy and effort into making the entire organisation customer focussed.
  2. You need to invest more than money – This does not just mean allocating budget alone to Design Thinking and Customer Experience and then stepping away, this means fostering a culture of innovation and experimentation throughout the business.
  3. Changing culture is hard – Culture change is one of the most difficult leadership challenges. That’s because an organisation’s culture comprises an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communications practices, attitudes and assumptions. Being more empathetic opens up nerve endings so we can feel what it is like to be in another’s shoes—a prerequisite for customer-centric design. We need to get as frustrated as the users/customers so we can better understand the pain points.
  4. Most employees find Design Thinking uncomfortable – For most people using some of the tools and methods you can apply using Design Thinking is uncomfortable and feels fuzzy compared to the clarity given by other previous practices such as building code and testing the results. Care must be taken to support them with the right tools and techniques along with time and space to practice the ideas and methods.
  5. Design needs authorityService design needs to be elevated to the board with at least one member having a seat at the table. This will demonstrate how seriously design is taken within the business.
  6. Design Thinking is not about just thinking – Design Thinking is actually less about thinking and more about doing. It’s not something you have, it’s something you do. This is not always clear from the executives we speak to. You need to be prepared to have your staff roll up their sleeves and take part.
  7. Design Thinking is like treading water – As leaders you have the choice of finding new customers for your existing products or developing new products for your existing customers. This often needs to happen at the same time, so can feel a bit like treading water.

“Design-thinking firms stand apart in their willingness to engage in the task of continuously redesigning their business…to create advances in both innovation and efficiency—the combination that produces the most powerful competitive edge.” - Roger Martin, author of the Design of Business

In this brief article we have included 7 reasons to embrace Design Thinking in your organisation – we don’t provide all the answers here but this gives you a starting point to explore further.

Get in touch with us if you want to find out more about our services, or are looking to bring Design Thinking into your organisation and would like some more information or help with this.

Further reading

If you would like to read more on this then check out the following:

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