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Why is design thinking important for every business?

Design thinking is knowing without reasoning and as such is the most disruptive and unsystematic form of thinking. By definition, design thinking is the productive combination of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. But design thinking will be effective in your company only if strategic planning is successfully connected with the execution of products, services, and communications.

Or is the phrase “design thinking” simply just marketing for design firms? What do you think? Let me explain why I think design thinking is really important for every business.

At the company that I managed, Vizuarna, we claimed that we connect the design thinking with the corporate strategies and tie both aspects in strategic interactive annual reporting. Why did we say that? Because we needed to market ourselves? Yes, we did. But did we really had had something in the back of that claim? I believe, yes we did.

Roger Martin (dean of the Rotman School of Management and author of The Design of Business) wrote in Harward Business Review that business today is dominated by analytical thinking. Further, Mr. Martin believes that design thinking is knowing without reasoning. So, design thinking is about an invention that is supposed to be the most disruptive and unsystematic form of thinking. To Mr. Martin design thinking is the productive combination of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking.

Design thinking takes on the tradition of systems thinking, where we acknowledge that we cannot take the system apart neither we fully appreciate why it is as it is. We try to learn how to deal with feedback, side effects, and other complex situations. “Design thinking elaborates on and updates systems thinking to take advantage of insights and principles that those engaged in designing have developed over the past half-century.” Weatherhead School of Management.

Only one company in a market can be the cheapest; the rest need design.

And how is design thinking connected to the business? I have been writing on design champions at this blog – but also other known authors claim that design leadership must have corporate champions at the CEO and CTO who see the value of design. In that way, design should play a central role in the planning and execution of corporate strategy. That was supposed to be true in 1907, when AEG hired Peter Behrens, as it is today at HP, where Sam Lucente is director of design. The corporations always knew, even before WWII, that only one company in a market can be the cheapest; the rest need design. That was true for the GM’s strategy to compete against Ford in 1927 as it is today for Target that competes again Wal-Mart (Craig M. Vogel).

Here we have one part of the answer: only if your company is actually the cheapest one on the market and therefore you have the total low-cost strategy you have the advantage. Otherwise you will need to find your advantage and your focus and for that, you will need design thinking, design strategy, and design. Only analytical thinking is not going to be enough, out of that goes the enormous popularity of design thinking (51,800,000 results on Google search and still counting).

The key to business success is an innovative CEO who sees design as an investment, not a cost, and a strategy design director or consultant who can place the value of design at the centre of the company.

Design thinking is effective only if strategic planning is successfully connected with the execution of products, services, and communications. P&G is an example of a company where former CEO A. G. Lafley transformed the corporation from a chemical company into an “experience” company. The key to business success, not just in the case of P&G, is an innovative CEO who sees design as an investment, not a cost, and a strategy design director or consultant who can place the value of design at the center of the company (Craig M. Vogel). Thy is why design thinking is important for every business

Sources:
Craig M. Vogel: Notes on the Evolution of Design Thinking: A Work in Progress in Design Management Review, 20/2 2009
Roger Martin: blog post on HBR.org, published in Harward Business Review January-February 2010

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