“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”
Design thinking is a tool that is gaining steam as often business problems can be assisted with a different view of thinking in the new digital economy. I have been in many situations where individuals are brainstorming for solutions to issues and really look to what is the standard or best practice but sometimes this can fail. When there is an efficiency problem process is introduced or implementing technology to solve other problems. Many leaders are hammers and look for nails as leaders often looking to formulate solutions to problems that might be more complex. Design thinking process often has a level of due diligence that helps answer business problems as design, prototyping and testing ideas as a critical thinking framework that is flexible so information can be gathered, decisions could be made and solutions implemented rapidly. Design thinking is a powerful tool that can assist in diverse business issues and specifically transformations or re-inventions of business models and value chains in organizations. Design thinking is a great tool for these issues because it naturally tries to get to root-causes of issues and this form of critical thinking if the standard practice is the best solution it is usually validated. I will not go too far into this but to understand the systems thinking and design thinking approach you can check out two possible areas for a quick overview- systems thinking or design thinking.
Transformation and digital transformation are usually not solved by technology but by human factors as it clarifies problems as it is a user-centric approach that puts the user/ customer at the forefront. Design thinking allows users looking to solve issues to engross themselves in problems leveraging technology but still with the user first. User-centered approaches for problem-solving has a very empathetic approach and digs in to truly try to understand why people do things and emotions of the users. Design thinking needs to be fluid and as a framework often in itself is a fundamental shift for organizations is not a choice. Most companies do not like to take risks and really have no other choice but to transform and most often this has to do with going more digital. But digital transformation and fundamental changes to a business are not about technology adoption to solve a problem but about problem-solving issues that require innovative solutions. Often many operation managers do not have the skillsets needed to fully adopt changes needed within organizations as the day to day management and skillset needed is very different than implementing key complex strategic initiatives. Business transformation is also changing as organizations in hyper-competitive environments are continuously changing to make sure they can still compete- continuous improvement initiatives for many organizations is constant and items need to be adapted often in iterations. The most successful organizations continue to look within and try to adjust and adapt as the feedback cycle never really stops. Requirements for organizations are changing rapidly and it is important to adapt- what I learned in my last role is often process, the specifically linear process is not the best solution. Design thinking is best when it is a guideline and ingrained into culture as this takes time and often leaders are not willing to truly take a chance on empowering employees and design thinking as a guideline. Instead, many leaders are used to providing a structured set of steps but this rarely gets the results they are striving to get. Learning and using lessons from iterations can often be difficult for leaders as there is not a defined future solution right away this can cause discomfort for leaders and to truly implement solutions in many cases that maximize the ROI this is needed as root-causes often are better solved with ideation. Technology and automation can be part of a solution but being people and user-focused will often help you understand the true problems. Leaders though need to be more patient and allow for experimentation and sometimes failure, a failure that can be learned from and can humanize technology and provide a culture that can embrace change.
Transformation of an organization is also helped with a diverse workforce as thought diversity and different opinions help design thinking and allow for critical thinking of problem solving. Groupthink, the loudest person in the room and the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) affect can all still affect design thinking’s effectiveness if sessions are not facilitated effectively. I have been in situations before that people fall in line and are not able to speak their minds on business problems and solutions because they are affected by the previously mentioned issues. I have realized now that fit within an organization is a double-edged sort- yes like-minded individuals can sometimes allow for initiatives to move forward quicker but diverse workforces can come up generally with solutions that are better thought out with diligence and allow for true design thinking. Consultants often can be useful in cases like this when facilitation skills are not within your organization to truly develop plans that encompass a real solution to complex problems. Design thinking helps develop solutions and can help because it can be transformative. Flatter leadership structures in many organizations are also becoming more common as clients/ customers are demanding speed. Therefore most business transformation and change within many organizations is more of a culture shift than and operational shift. What is envisioned is a human-centered process not normally a technology-driven process and in saying most transformation in organizations is employee-driven and the technology is only the tool to help get there. If an organization wants successful transformation they will focus on changing culture and this is where training designing thinking within the organization can help transformation as employees can help take steps to the future. In reality the organizational culture shift and design thinking go hand in hand and diversity of thought will help design thinking as innovation and transformation become more essential for businesses as the digital economy provides them no choice. Changing to survive is set to become the norm for many in the near future.
Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.
If you enjoyed this please share this below: