design thinking

Building a Design Thinking Culture

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Popularized by Tim Brown, Design Thinking is a method of innovation that uses the designer's tools to design the most perfect response to customer expectations. Today, although its detractors are numerous, the concept is gradually spreading to new territories, to the nerve centre of organizations and is establishing itself as a source of competitive advantage.
 
Qhat do Apple, SAP and IBM have in common, if not their weight in the world of new technologies? The answer to what is surprising: design. For Apple, it goes without saying... but IBM, which hardly ever makes terminals anymore, and SAP, which mainly produces business software packages? The explanation can be found in a design agency that was founded 25 years ago in Palo Alto: IDEO and its method, Design Thinking, which aims to put the customer experience at the heart of strategic thinking.
The method has since attracted 3M, Nike and Coca-Cola. How do you explain this boom in Design Thinking? By a paradigm shift in our economy, now dominated by the customer experience, explains Tim Brown, current president of IDEO, who popularized the concept with his book Change by Design. The customer must therefore be the starting point for any reflection, well before the technology or the market.

The fundamentals of design thinking

Largely ignored ten years ago, Design Thinking has become a hot topic for companies of all sizes. What are the fundamentals?
 
The design philosophy: starting from the customer to innovate.
Design Thinking was born in the 1990s to develop an approach to innovation that was no longer technology-centred but customer-centred. It is this focus that differentiates Design Thinking from traditional approaches to innovation. For Tim Brown, working in Design Thinking mode is organized around three logics that synthesize analytical and intuitive thinking:
- A logic of co-creation: a company that puts Design Thinking at the heart of its activity does not make its departments work in isolation. It connects the silos to encourage collective intelligence and the cross-fertilisation of expertise.
- An intellectual gymnastics aiming at alternating phases of intuition and analysis, in a logic of openness and collaboration with the users.
- A strong emphasis on field research - especially ethnographic observation - to understand the customer experience (unlike traditional focus groups or quantitative studies).  (Source : Business Digest.eu)
 
According to Jean-Pierre Léac, in the Cahiers de l'innovationDesign thinking is "A mode of application of the design tools used by designers to solve a problem of innovation, through a multidisciplinary approach centred on the human being". If some people are already announcing the death of design thinking, its methodologies are nowadays spread in all situations where something is designed (new product or service).
 
Our economy is now dominated by experience, which explains the success of design thinking. If you look at the diagram, the value has shifted from products to services (services, however, often associated with products and constituting a "total solution" to customer needs). The new watchword today is experience. It is one more step in dematerialization, following the standardization of services and the willingness / need to generate a stronger commitment from users. It is therefore less a question of designing a new product than of designing the experience that the customer lives using the product we sell.
 
The design thinking process can be summarized in three key steps:
- Identifying a problem and understanding its environment ("empathy")
- Finding the concept, the idea that will solve it ("ideate")
- Designing the form that will embody this "prototype" and "test" concept.
 

Although the principles of design thinking are increasingly being adopted by companies (see this article: theDoes design thinking get closer to the heart of companies)?In the case of the European Union, it would seem that the conditions for adopting these principles are not always optimal, and sometimes even contradictory to the objectives pursued. 

An outdated approach? Soon the death of design thinking?

One of the world's leading names in the field of collective intelligence, Bruce Nussbaum, has thrown a paving stone in the puddle by calling design thinking a "failed experiment". He's heralding the death of design thinking! 
 
But what exactly does Nussbaum criticize about "design thinking" and why is he moving to a new "conceptual framework" (which he calls creative intelligence)? According to him, if there is a need for a paradigm shift, it is because design thinking has given society everything it could give and is now becoming harmful because it is sclerotic. Originally, design thinking increased the impact of designers and unleashed creativity in companies, which welcomed what they perceived as a well-defined process.
 
There have been some successes but also many failures. These can be explained by the fact that companies have "too well" integrated design thinking and turned it into a linear and closed process capable of producing, at best, incremental innovation. The leaders have sometimes made "design thinking" a process of "design thinking". like we do Lean or the 6 sigma, with a view to improving the company's performance and organisation. 
 
The implementation of design thinking in a company goes through a formalization of its main stages: As Tim Brown (IDEO firm) says in Les Cahiers de l'innovation,  The consultants who promoted "design thinking" in companies hoped that the implementation of this new process alone would produce major cultural and organisational changes. But it should not be forgotten that from the outset, design thinking was only a technique to achieve the real goal: creativity. The problem is that in order to make it compatible with the "procedural culture" of companies, design thinking has been stripped of the disorder, conflict, failures, emotions and feedback loops that constitute creativity. Few companies have accepted the mess inherent in the creative process and in most cases the success rate of design thinking implementation has been very low.
 
Design thinking has had one great merit, however: it has played a fundamental role in completely rethinking the place of designers in society. Previously confined to a vision limited to products and their aesthetics, they are now occupying an increasingly broad place because they include humans in their thinking and systematically take into account the social, economic and environmental problems of our time.
 
Remember, the initial promise of design thinking was to bring creativity to the table. Creativity is an old concept, much older than design, but it is a very inclusive concept. If you talk about "design" around a table, your interlocutors tend to smile and think "fashion" or "original furniture". If you say design thinking, they usually stop smiling and try to change the subject. On the other hand, if you talk about "creativity", then their faces light up and they almost certainly want to participate in what you propose next. Everyone loves creativity because everyone believes they are or can be creative. And that's true. The best scientists, athletes, engineers, entrepreneurs, artists, or players of World of Warcraft are all creative people. The behaviours and skills required by design thinking are at the heart of creativity: being in tune with the people and culture around us, having the experience and wisdom to identify real problems and having the ability to imagine and implement solutions.
 
Announcing the death of design thinking, the future for Bruce Nussbaum thus passes for its abandonment in companies as a fixed process from which would derive an improved creative capacity. According to him, it is a question of promoting creative intelligence, i.e. the ability to approach problems in a new way and to devise original responses. This is an approach that is more sociological than psychological, where creativity emerges from the activities of a group rather than from the activities of a brilliant individual or from steps in the implementation of a particular process.
(Source : The Cahiers de l'innovation - April 2015) 
 

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