Business Design Thinking
Design thinking is a business practice that takes a anticlimactically approach at problem solving and organizational optimization. The concept of design is most often associated with artistic or creative endeavors, but with business design thinking, design is applied toward organizations in order to facilitate operational improvements. Design thinking is an ongoing process and is action-oriented. It is a dynamic approach that is constantly analyzing, questioning and modifying in order to recognize problems and create innovative solutions. Ultimately, business design thinking Is about making organizations better through careful examination, creative deliberation and skillful execution (Brown 2008). In this paper we will explore business design thinking in depth. The different steps of design thinking will be analyzed and explained, and the overall design process will be mapped out so it can be more easily understood. We will then examine the ways In which design thinking can be effectively applied In business organizations, and will explore different examples of how business design Is accomplished given multiple objectives.
Finally, the benefits of design thinking from a racial and strategic perspective will be compared against the costs of implementing a business design strategy, and recommendations about when to utilize design thinking can be given. The first step of design thinking Is to define the problem. Observation Is necessary to design thinking because carefully observing the situation often reveals facts and data that differ substantially from existing conclusions or preconceived notions.
In any organization there is an inherent bias toward existing ways of doing business, and certain operational processes will inevitably be taken for granted (Martin 2009). Long- held assumptions will go unquestioned and unexamined, with the result that organizations often have dysfunctional processes that are deep-seated which go undiagnosed for years simply because no one ever bothered to question them.
When observing with a design thinking frame of mind, the goal is to identify issues which have previously gone unquestioned and then to question everything about them. In this regard, the practice of design thinking is very much like being an overly-inquisitive child who can’t stop asking why. The business design consultant must question everything that e or she sees as being a potential design Issue, either negative or positive. There must be a firm understanding of and a rationale for every process in which the organization is engaged.
If the organization cannot explain why it performs its processes in the manner it does, the order it does and in the given time frame it does, that is a clear sign that the business design consultant Is on the right track, and that the matter needs further Observation must occur with the defined problem in mind. For example, if increased efficiency is the goal, then observation must be especially honed in on areas of the existing processes which are n any way inefficient. The design approach is specifically undertaking this observation from the perspective of a blank slate.
This means that every process must be Justified for itself anew. As the business design consultant works his or her way through existing processes, each step must stand on its own merits and be analyzed for efficiency. Design will also take into consideration a creative approach toward identifying steps in the process which might be modified, combined or eliminated in order to improve efficiency. The ultimate goal of this first stage is to come away from the observation period with a firm understanding of the problems and their definitions (Brown & Wyatt 2010).
The second stage of business design thinking is the creation and consideration of options which will be applied to the design problems identified in the first step. This stage is perhaps the most unique of the design process, and is what sets design thinking apart from other business strategies. This second stage emphasizes creativity and outside the box thinking in a big way, and it is this practice of taking truly novel and creative approaches toward problem solving that makes design thinking so effective.
Without considering a wide range of options (many of which have never previously been considered) the design thinking approach loses the heart of its essence (Dunne & Martin, 2006). The design approach is at its best when numerous solutions are being created and considered even for the most simple and trivial problems identified in step one. It is only through this sort of comprehensive, exhaustive approach that leaves no stone unturned that the best ideas can eventually emerge. Part of the creative process in this stage is questioning even the solutions presented as they emerge.
The tendency to solve problems in ell-worn methodologies is always present, and for this reason design thinkers must not only take a creative approach toward problem solving, but must take a creative approach toward creating solutions to those problems. In other words, design thinkers must be careful not to fall into the trap of applying the same answers to similar problems every time. Small differences can add up to create large ones, so every tiny detail must be analyzed in order to create solutions which are truly unique and tailored to the situation and organization at hand.
Obvious design solutions will of course present themselves iris, but the temptation to apply an obvious solution to an obvious problem should be ignored. The greatest successes of design thinking occur when a simple problem with a seemingly obvious solution is revealed to have not been such a simple problem at all. Misidentification of problems can lead to solutions which do not fit the existing problem. The combination of accurate diagnosis and exhaustive creative deliberation lies at the heart of the second stage of the business design thinking process.
The third stage of business design thinking is refining the solutions presented in stage two. The refining process is where the ideas generated previously are streamlined and put into working order. The refining stage is crucial because it is where the ideas come together into a coherent whole that is applicable to the entire organization. Refining the choice of direction is not always an easy task. The myriad of solutions and options generated in the second stage means that sorting through them and determining the best combination of solutions takes considerable time and effort.
Often solutions will be modified and pieced together in order to make them workable from a macro perspective. This is a key component of refinement. Refining solutions requires understanding the needs of the organization and its overall business strategy, positioning and direction. The types of design choices made must suit the organization in all of these facets, because good design is about crafting solutions that fit like a custom-made suit. The refining process is the stage in which creative designs are refined in such a way as to fit perfectly with the needs of the organization (Cooper et al. 009). A solution that was initially far-fetched can be worked down into one that is workable and suits the problem at hand. The refining process is one of the most team-oriented acts of design thinking. While creative solutions emerge from a single mind, it is the process by which those solutions are refined where the benefits of a group come in to play. The singular nature of creativity means that the individual will be limited by the original scope of his or her vision.
In offering up a creative solution, no matter how innovative it may be, the person who puts it forward is therefore inherently limited by the scope of that vision itself. However, when that creative solution is then offered up to the group for refinement, there are no limitations on the vision or its consideration. Since the presented solution is totally novel to every other member of the group (and since they are therefore not wedded to any particular facet of the idea) it can be analyzed from every direction and tossed around freely in ways that the originator of the idea could not have anticipated.
Through this process, creative ideas are refined and perfected, and solutions are crafted to precisely fit the needs of the organization. The final stage of the design thinking process is final decision of which solutions to implement, and the execution of putting those solutions into practice. This is the culmination of the process and what every prior step was working toward. The decision and execution stage involves the creation of process. In order to make the final decision of which solution should be implemented, this sort of prototyping and testing usually involves at least three fully refined solutions.
Since even the most carefully thought-out theory can prove unworkable in practice, this prototyping and testing is crucial to ensure that the careful deliberation and creativity applied to the problem solving scenario was not wasted (Owen 2007). The execution of the chosen solution and its implementation s then accomplished, and the organization is able to begin reaping the benefits of increased efficiency. The design thinking process comes to a close, and the organization’s strategy going forward will utilize new methodologies.
Having thoroughly mapped out the design thinking process, we can now explore the ways in which design thinking can be effectively applied in organizations, and look at examples of how business design thinking is implemented given various organizational objectives. Design thinking’s applications are only limited by the scope of the organization itself, and the decisions about which aspects of the organization re under scrutiny. Given enough time and information, the design thinking process can be applied to literally every aspect of the organization.
Because design thinking is such a comprehensive and exhaustive process, it is most often accomplished in a manner that is compartmentalized and step by step (Waylay 2008). Rather than apprehending and analyzing the entirety of the organization at once, the design thinking consultants will analyze separate partitions of the organization while keeping in mind the functionality and the ways in which these separate facets of the organization come together. Implementing business design thinking is a function of the decision making process, and goes hand in hand with an overall strategic formulation.
Design thinking is not a substitute for the creation of an overarching strategy, but acts as a complement to strategic considerations. The role of design thinking in strategy is comparable to that of an advisor who offers alternative theories and approaches. The goal is to inform the organization of new possibilities and to give decision makers the resources they need (from an informational perspective) in order to craft a strategy that effectively utilizes the assets of the organization to reach its goals.
The facility with which organizations are able to effectively utilize design thinking largely depends on the degree to which management goes along with the recommendations and solutions such resistance is present in large amounts the new ideas will have difficulty taking root and are not likely to be effectively implemented, and the strategies that result will not be as successful as they might otherwise be. For this reason one of the most important aspects of ensuring effective design thinking is the necessity of achieving buy-in from organizational decision makers and managers.
The benefits which can accrue from a successful program of design thinking are numerous and far-reaching. An especially successful design thinking process can result in the reengineering of an organization’s entire business strategy, making them much more effective than they had previously been. Or perhaps the organization might focus its design thinking initiative on a particular portion of the organization’s operations that have been troublesome for some time.
With a more focused application of design thinking, such a company could conceivably turn what had en a costly liability into a valuable asset simply be re-working their methodologies. The costs of design thinking are best understood both in terms of the costs associated with undertaking the process, as well as the costs of continuing with business as usual without design thinking. Design thinking will analyze many aspects of the organization, and this analysis cannot be accomplished overnight if it is expected to be effective.
Working with the organization hand in hand is required and taking a fine-toothed comb over the organization’s operations can be expected (Latitude & Gillie 2011). Design thinking may also result in the emergence of uncomfortable truths and revelations of past mistakes by decision makers. The process of design thinking can be disruptive and time consuming, and demands a good deal of attention and cooperation from the organization.
However, the costs of allowing inefficient operations to continue means the organization is, over time, leaving large amounts of money on the table. So when organizations ask themselves, “Can we afford to undertake a process of design thinking? ” they should at the same time be asking themselves, “Can we afford NOT to undertake a process of design thinking? “
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