It’s not a head scratcher. It’s a way to integrate creative elements of design with the profound elements of thought. Such thinking helps business leaders rid rigid thought patterns and activate not only their own latent creativities but also those of their employees. Design Thinking is all about drawing upon an individual’s passion and using it to find innovative solutions.
In order to encourage the adoption of Design Thinking in your business to solve problems, you need to ensure that everybody is prepared to think beyond obvious issues and problems and, to question assumptions about what works and what doesn’t. In other words, be prepared to question everything.
Let me give you an example of Design Thinking in action.
Recently, one of my clients sought help in coming up with a succession plan. He had a successor in mind, but wasn’t sure if the person was committed enough.
So, we went about finding out what drove this person and determining if this was in line with the business’ vision. By applying a simple time-based model to assess the past, present and future, we got a breakthrough. We discovered what makes him tick and, we also figured out a way for him to incorporate his values into the business.
In other words, we found a way for him to fulfill his role in a way that was meaningful for him and the business. I then took the entire leadership team through the same process and the end result was a happier, more engaged team whose collective vision was in line with my client’s own outlook for the business.
Here’s a three-pronged method to practice Design Thinking that many of you can use to solve your own business problems:
#1. Revisit the past
History is useful. Review it at regular intervals. For example, at the close of every year, re-evaluate some of the things you have accomplished or failed to accomplish.
Make your employees compile a list of important happenings, both positive and negative. Ask if they can see any patterns, say, for example, in how they have handled certain situations or, dealings with people. Then, ask them if they could have handled each instance in a different way.
Once your employees have opened their mind up, they will be ready to visit current problems they are facing and to ask themselves if the way they are dealing with them is the best way.
Eventually, this process of questioning everything that they do will become second nature to them, and they’ll get into the habit of constantly being on the look-out for new and better ways of doing things.
#2. Assess the present
People are often so busy balancing a range of competing commitments they forget to live in the present. The good news is: With practice, you can teach staff this essential ‘skill’ and enable them to think differently, in line with Design Thinking.
Being able to live in the present is important because it’s the only way that we can be tuned into what’s going on inside of us. The key is to find a tool that works for the individual – for some it’s meditation while others prefer exercise – and allows them to turn their brain off for a while.
When employees have mastered this, they’ll be in perfect position to evaluate themselves, their passions, and also to consider how they fit into their roles.
#3. Shape the future
The final step in the holistic approach is to consider the future. Using a Design Thinking approach to mould your future isn’t about starting with a specific product or outcome in mind. Instead, it is about drawing on your passions and your customers’ desires to ascertain what you are not currently getting. The result of this line of questioning is usually an unlikely combination of services, parts or skills.
Smart organisations understand that it’s important to allow their teams time to explore new things – even if some result in unused ideas and even occasional mistakes. The end result is more focussed and happier employees who are better in touch with their inner selves and able to innovate and incorporate their rediscovered passions into their current roles.
In essence, employees who are taken through the Design Thinking process will emerge in a better position to succeed through the challenges and opportunities of 2013.
Irene van der Does Willebois is the author of the book, “Leading by Design.” She has advised clients on how to adapt to the opportunities and complexities of the 21st century.