When we think of designing something, most of us tend to think of an object or an end result such as a "well designed product". However, "Design Thinking" can be applied in business too.
Design as a process
Designing something tends to require various prototypes to be created and evaluated in order to agree on the shape of the final product. Design processes can also be used as a protocol for solving business problems and creating new, innovative solutions. Design thinking consists of four key elements as set out below.
1. Defining the problem
When faced with a business problem, most of us tend to jump straight to possible solutions. However, taking the time to sit down and define the root problem rather than the symptoms caused by that problem is absolutely key. One symptom might be that meetings always run late. However the problem in this case could be that there is no agenda and no chair of any meeting (i.e. the meetings lack structure) rather than simple bad timekeeping.
This involves creating and testing many potential solutions. Even the most talented teams and businesses sometimes fall into the trap of solving a problem the same way every time. Design thinking requires that no matter how obvious the solution may seem, many solutions must be created for consideration. Looking at a problem from more than one perspective always yields richer results and can result in the development of new and innovative solutions. Appoint a "design team" including people from different parts of the business, in order to drive the design process.
3. Refine a selection of options
A handful of potential solutions need to be chosen for further development. Design thinking allows any potential solution to be considered. Everyone around the table must agree to embrace all potential solutions and avoid making judgements based on previous experience. At this stage, everyone in the process should consider whether elements of different solutions could be combined in order to create a new, more refined solution. The various options can be tested with different groups across the firm and the results recorded in order to help the "design team" to choose the winning solution.
4. Pick the winner and execute
At this point enough potential solutions have been developed in order to deliver a successful outcome. The "design team" needs to agree on the solution that they think best solves the problem being faced by the business. The firm can now commit the time and resources to the newly designed solution in order to further refine it and create an implementation plan around it.