Design Thinking

Design thinking is in great focus of late. Organizations in India, especially Retail & IT services, have started to look at design thinking lot more aggressively. Businesses by and large have come to realize managing all the touch points of human experience is as critical than just making, branding, selling and delivering the product or services. At the end of the day, businesses thrive on the success of those touch points. Viewing human as the core of consumption and weaving a world of experience around the touch and feel is what design is all about.

For long, profession of design has remained an exceptional individual or a small group centric activity performed by a specialised set of creative professionals hired on contract. The primary purpose of engagement was to lay layer of aesthetic appeal to an engineered good or a service. However, there were few handfuls of studios that possibly went beyond and did some strategic work (with few exceptions in auto industry). Mostly, design remained as an activity that happened outside the corporation. It was not seen as core to business until companies such as Apple led the way. Through its in-house design department Apple made a departure to the culture of contracting design to making design core to business. Several companies have followed to institutionalise design as part of the corporate role. In fact, the re-designation of Jonathan Ive of Apple as CDO (Chief Design Officer) recently is a reiteration of a shift for design as a function to lay an equal and powerful stake as much as functions such as finance, people, marketing, to influence & drive the business.

Case for design thinking

What such a transformation means to industry in general? If business of yesterday was seen as a collection of perspectives of finance, marketing, strategy, people resources & technology and a business leader is a one who is sensitive to these perspectives we see an added perspective of design that will influence how business of tomorrow are run. If balance sheet, P/L accounting are the tools for embedding finance perspective, if performance rating, assessment are the tools for embedding human resource perspective, design thinking shall be the tool for embedding design perspective. In the world of business where efficiency is given, productivity is taken for granted, shelf life (for a product/service) is short-lived, experience demand is high, the only way for businesses to differentiate is to churn, discover & craft newer ideas, approaches and solutions at terrific speed. All being equal it is design where the differentiations will lie.

Design Thinking

Design thinking may be described in many ways. One simple way could be this:

Keeping the experience of the user at the core, discover & define the problem; visualize the user scenarios; ideate possible solutions by integrating both logical & aesthetic perspectives; generate close to consumption prototypes and demonstrate the power of the idea for execution.

Design thinking is not only about designers like Managerial Accounting is not only about accountants. Managerial Accounting is about managers viewing business through numbers. (One need not necessarily be a trained qualified accountant to learn to read numbers behind business operation. However, a business manager should know the language of numbers to think business) A business manager needs to build sensitivity to numbers to see the impact and deliberate her investment decisions. Same way, a business manager today needs to build sensitivity to design thinking for developing business propositions, be it product, service or both.

What do we foresee?

As design permeates we will see several changes in the nature of organisations of tomorrow. Like how quality permeated through certification, process control & compliance into the business operations we will see design shaping the culture of ideas driving business. We will see designers leading key transformative initiatives. Abstract concepts, sketches & obscure drawings will adorn the corporate discussion forums apart from documents, financials & project time lines!

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