Design thinking is poised to play an important role in a post-COVID world. Between the impact of the pandemic and the growing need to digitize everything, an increasing number of organizations are using design thinking to solve urgent problems and uncover the best opportunities for growth. It would come as no surprise to any of them that design-led companies outperform their competitors by as much as 211 percent.
At ExperiencePoint, we’ve been singing design thinking’s praises for a long time. We’ve seen hundreds of our clients flourish by adopting human-centered practices into their mindsets, behavior and daily routines. But design thinking can affect more nuanced change than simply increasing revenue, de-risking new initiatives and unleashing employee creativity; design thinking can also drive real progress when it comes to today’s most critical business imperatives.
Design Thinking and Today’s Key Strategies
You’ve heard the terms in Zoom webinars and come across them scrolling through your favorite business publications. Everyone is talking about building cultures of innovation, becoming more inclusive and diverse, hitting the gas on digital transformation, preparing for the big unknowns of the future of work, increasing organizational agility and embedding customer-centricity into their company’s core.
Below are the 6 major strategic imperatives of today’s business world and a brief look at how design thinking can set your company up to succeed with each.
A Culture of Innovation
What company doesn’t want an internal culture that fosters creativity, experimentation and unorthodox thinking? What employee doesn’t crave a non-hierarchical work environment that rewards risk and destigmatizes failure? Organizations that boast cultures of innovation are producing cutting-edge products and services, while gaining the upper hand in the talent market by attracting and retaining the best employees. Design thinking can help your organization achieve this kind of culture by providing a framework for innovative thinking and idea-generation that everyone, across departments, understands and supports. When design thinking is scaled across your organization, you’ll produce a highly collaborative environment where people break down the barriers to success, speak the same “creative” language and advance the best ideas together.
According to the World Economic Forum, digital transformation is expected to add $100 trillion to the global economy by 2025. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to incorporate digital technologies into all kinds of business practices. But with technologies advancing and improving by the day, companies risk getting caught up in the myriad of fancy digital platforms on offer, and thus losing track of what their customer actually wants and needs. When design thinking is used as a framework for going digital, the customer becomes the focal point of the transformation. Technology is never introduced for the sake of technology alone. Instead, every new digital initiative is measured against how it’s serving your customer, ensuring that a fantastic user experience is the end goal.
If you were trying to distill the most essential aspect of design thinking, you’d probably land on customer-centricity. Design thinking begins and ends with the customer, ensuring that every innovation project or problem-solving initiative is led by a deep understanding of user needs. With design thinking, teams let go of preconceived assumptions about what their problem is and what may initially seem like the best solution, letting focussed user-empathy guide the way. This strong connection to the user informs every stage of the design process, from unbridled brainstorming to rapid prototyping to hands-on testing. So if you want your organization to become truly customer-centric, the framework of design thinking will set you up to succeed.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
There’s both a business case and a moral argument for bringing ED&I initiatives to your workplace. Still, many companies struggle to make their cultures as fair, diverse and inclusive as they should be. Research shows that the building blocks for ED&I are empathetic leadership, a sense of belonging, ending top-down initiatives and minimizing employee fear. In other words, there’s tons of thematic overlap between design thinking and the process of implementing ED&I. Organizations that already have a design-savvy culture can use design thinking capabilities such as empathy, collaboration and open-mindedness to make their workplaces more inclusive. Or they can address ED&I problems more directly by organizing sprints that tackle the challenges of implementation head-on. Design thinking can also play a key role in ensuring that your products and/or services are usable and accessible to diverse people, regardless of who they are, where they are or their status in the world.
The Future of Work
With automation taking over tasks that are data-driven and routine, it’s your people—their talent, skills and expertise—that will make your brand unique and cement its competitive advantage. In tomorrow’s workplaces, people will be increasingly prized for what computers can’t provide: creativity, ingenuity and agility. Empathy, listening, interpretation and problem-solving will be the go-to skills of the future and will come to redefine the workforce. It’s in this genre of soft-skill training that design thinking becomes so important. By teaching people to uncover unmet needs, generate new ideas and create solutions through experimenting, design thinking builds capabilities that will position them to anticipate and navigate all the challenges of a quickly evolving world.
McKinsey describes organizational agility as an organization’s ability to “renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.” An organization that has scaled design thinking capabilities across departments has the channels and systems in place to respond quickly to new challenges and swiftly establish new initiatives. The widespread disruption caused by the digital revolution, and exacerbated by the pandemic, has caused a wave of turnovers and talent shortages across industries. Employees need the autonomy and flexibility to engage in continuous learning and create a steady flow of new ideas. Design thinking capabilities set them up to achieve both these goals.
The takeaway? Design thinking is a powerful tool for creating the organizational foundations necessary for diverse kinds of progress. While the innovation method produces concrete and measurable business outcomes, it can also be applied to more nuanced strategic imperatives that keep your brand competitive, attractive and in sync with the times.
In our next blog posts, we’ll be taking a closer look at how design thinking can enable each strategic imperative. Continue your reading with our series on The Future of Work and Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. And stay tuned for what’s coming next!