Design Thinking for Your Business

Part 2 of 3

In our first article on design thinking for your business, we dove into a few core topics to help implement a design thinking culture within your organization. We talked about how questions are a form of currency, how to fail quickly, learn as you grow and the importance of human-centred design. This go-around, we will take it a step further and introduce four new topics into the design thinking methodology to get you on your way.

When thinking of innovation, organizations feel nervous or uncertain and for a good reason. The act of innovation means that you won’t necessarily know where you’ll end up. You just know that you have to start. Let’s talk about a few more steps you could take to build a design thinking work environment.

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Jackson Pollock painting in his studio in long island 1949

More Pollock, less Van Gogh.

There is no perfect equation for innovation. We like to think of it as a painting. Jackson Pollock is a perfect example. A variety of approaches that lead to innovation. There is no straight line. But there is energy, intention and a sheer shine of inspiration. Innovation comes easily in this form. However, the downside is that fewer of these projects may ever go to the market.

However, those that do are likely to have a lasting impact. Encouraging experimentation is easy in the right environment. Encourage your team, collaborate with them, heck, even let them play with Lego to design their prototype. 

At Stradea, we’ve actually used Lego to design our website templates and layouts. Change the medium is an easy way to challenge the status quo.

The design thinking lifecycle.

We wanted to introduce a model we absolutely love. This is a perfect example of the design thinking lifecycle. 

The illustration breaks down the model and planning stages of design thinking and dives deeper into design thinking’s role in developing the natural experience. 

We won’t jump into the lean user experience of lean most viable product/prototype (MVP) development. We wanted to include it to let you and your team start thinking about the bigger picture when all things are connected. 

Find help wherever it resides.

Not like “professional help,” but help from a professional. I do not fix my car when it’s not running properly. I probably could troubleshoot it, but I call my neighbour (he’s actually a performance automotive mechanic). There will be times when it makes more sense to go outside your organization and look for opportunities to expand the innovation ecosystem.

One of Stradea’s core values is to co-create (like Einstein and Picasso). By this we mean, working with partners to solve big problems. How are Einstein and Picasso relative? Think of the relative theory and cubism; the similarities are uncanny.

Sometimes co-creation will happen with customers or new 
alliances you build. Other times, you may need to hire an expert to help take the reigns.

The goal is to find help wherever you can. Perspective is a great motivator. Try asking your accountant to solve a problem you’re having. You may be surprised by how creative they are. Our accountant, well, let’s just say the Dos Equis campaign was probably just a chapter from his life.

Budgets, yeah we're talking numbers.

Design thinking is fast-paced, unruly, and disruptive, and those are its high points. Not the most efficient process when allocating budgets. We once managed a $2.5M portfolio for a bank and tried to introduce design thinking in our plan. Try justifying a budget line item with a $750k variance.

Learn from our mistakes. Rather than sabotage your most creative asset, be prepared to rethink budget schedules. As projects unfold, teams will learn more about the opportunities before them. Share that information throughout the organization. Your budget will now positively impact other departments. In our case, we leveraged an agile resource allocation process.

Our design thinking process started with planning the budget. We were design thinking about how to design think as part of our marketing plan. That’s some 4th wall design thinking, but it worked. The trick is to accept that milestones cannot be predicted with certainty and that each project will grow or shrink depending on what’s uncovered through the testing and design phases.

The key to agile budgeting is a review process that relies upon the judgment rather than some kind of algorithmic process applied on an excel sheet.

Don't ask what. Ask why.

Toyota does it (5 times consecutively), 5-year-old children do it (constantly), and Simon Sinek is the best example of how to do it correctly. Ask Why? For design thinkers, asking “Why?” is the chance to reframe the problem. It allows you to question what is the root cause of the issue.

Toyota’s five whys is the best example of this. Five whys (or five whys) is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect by repeating the question “Why?”. Each answer forms the basis of the next question, which eventually leads to the right question and better still the right set of solutions. Note, there is never just one solution. There are strong and weak solutions, but with design thinking, quick iterative testing is the way to discover the best solution for you.

In closing, design thinking is pretty much a choose your adventure. However, within an organization, design thinking becomes more gamified, similar to a Role-Playing game, where each character has its attributes and skills that will benefit the team. Build a team that can grow with experience together. That’s the sign of a real design thinking environment. Always challenging, always learn, and if you have the option, watch a little Golden Girls.