- 16 Jan 2024
- 6 Minutes to read
Design thinking in business practice
- Updated on 16 Jan 2024
- 6 Minutes to read
Thank you to Kem-Laurin Lubin, PH.D - C for sharing her insight, knowledge and expertise with us.
You can read this article on Medium as well.
Design thinking in business practice
More than just problem-solving; it a business language
“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing the ‘whole’, recognizing patterns, and interconnecting those patterns into an integrated framework. It empowers us to understand complexity and anticipate consequences, not just react to them.” — Peter Senge
In a recent post, I talked about a conceptual framework known as Design Thinking (hereafter, DT), and how I think it should be an accessible tool for everyone. In this post I want to open the curtains and take you into my practice and how I use DT as a Design Strategist. My relationship with DT extends beyond the conventional. Over time, I have always seen it as a kind of systems approach to solutioning though traditionally it is depicted as set of practices and mindsets geared towards problem-solving. In the last eight years, I have come to embrace DT, both as a language to define my role; and, as an activity to engage workshop participants, who I am leading through solutioning around a problem space. But while I highlight its dual power, there is still another aspect and that is DT as a language for business practice; I will touch on that shortly.
DT as a working language
In my professional engagements, I leverage DT as a linguistic framework to articulate the essence of my function and its underlying values — i.e., selling myself. DT, framed here as a methodology, transforms it from a mere methodology into a communicative tool, that allows me to effectively express my role in various projects. It’s about more than just executing tasks; it’s about infusing my work with a deeper sense of purpose and clarity.
Communicating complex concepts
Consider a project aimed at reimagining the user experience (UX) for a digital banking platform. Here, my role as a Design Strategist and Coach, goes beyond merely outlining strategies and solutions. Using DT as a language, I begin by framing the project’s objectives in terms that resonate with both the technical team and the client (stakeholders). For instance, I might use DT terms like ‘empathy mapping’ to help the technical team understand the importance of user-centric design, and ‘ideation’ to describe to the client how we will generate innovative solutions and ideas.
This linguistic application of DT helps in bridging the gap between abstract concepts and practical implementation. It enables me to communicate complex strategies in an accessible way, ensuring that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of the project’s goals and the processes involved in achieving them. Nothing better than showing than telling.
DT for facilitating workshops
When it comes to workshop facilitations, DT transcends its role as a theoretical concept and becomes a hands-on experience where participants are immersed in a systematic, guided way of solutioning, together. Here, I immerse workshop attendees in the practical aspects of DT, guiding them through activities that embody its core principles, and contextualized for the challenges they face. This experiential learning not only helps attendees grasp the fundamentals of DT but also allows them to see its application in real-time scenarios. Let me explain more in detail how that is done.
Take, for example, a workshop designed for a team embarking on a new product development. The session begins with a design challenge: creating a prototype for an innovative product within a limited timeframe. Participants are divided into small teams, each tasked with going through the stages of DT — empathizing with users, defining the problem, ideating solutions, prototyping, and testing.
During this process, the teams engage in rapid brainstorming sessions, construct mock-ups using everyday materials, and receive instant feedback from their peers. This hands-on approach not only makes the principles of DT tangible but also illustrates how they can be applied in a fast-paced, real-world setting.
Reflection and application
Post-activity, we hold a debrief session where participants reflect on their experiences. They share insights on how empathy led to more user-centric solutions, how ideation fostered creativity, and how prototyping and testing brought clarity to their ideas. This reflection phase is crucial as it helps participants internalize the DT process and envision its application in their everyday work. It truly is a visceral way of working.
DT in business practice: beyond the conventional
In everyday business practices, DT takes on a third, vital dimension. It acts as an accessible and interdisciplinary linguistic tool, bridging diverse teams and disciplines within an organization. This aspect of DT is critical in cultivating a culture of collaboration and surfacing the teams’ shared understanding of a problem space.
Facilitating cross-team collaboration
In a typical business setting, teams often operate in silos, each with its specialized language and perspective. DT, in this context, serves as a unifying language that transcends these barriers. For instance, when a product development team collaborates with marketing and sales teams, DT principles like empathy mapping and user-centric ideation become common ground for discussion. This shared language enables teams to align their goals and work cohesively towards a unified objective.
Enhancing strategic decision-making
DT also plays a pivotal role in strategic decision-making. It encourages a holistic view of business challenges, considering multiple perspectives and potential impacts. In boardroom discussions, for example, DT principles can guide the conversation, ensuring that decisions are not just data-driven but also empathetically aligned with customer needs and experiences. This approach leads to more informed and balanced business strategies.
Driving innovation and adaptability
Moreover, DT fosters an environment conducive to innovation. It encourages teams to think beyond the status quo and explore new ideas. In rapidly changing markets, this adaptability is crucial. DT empowers teams to prototype and test ideas quickly, leading to innovative solutions that keep businesses ahead of the curve.
Bridging the gap between disciplines
In the business arena, DT serves as a common language that unites various departments — from development and senior leadership to designers and other stakeholders. Its naming conventions and frameworks provide a unified orientation for projects, ensuring that all team members are aligned in their understanding and approach. This universality of DT allows for a smoother, more coherent collaborative process, breaking down silos and fostering a more inclusive work environment.
In the wider context of business, DT is not just about using the same terms; it’s about imbuing these terms with a shared meaning that resonates across work functions. This shared understanding is crucial in aligning the team’s vision and objectives, driving projects towards success with a cohesive strategy.
In my practice, is not just a methodology; it’s a multi-dimensional tool that serves as a language, an activity, and a unifying force in business. By adopting DT in these diverse ways, I aim to not only enhance the effectiveness of my role as a Design Strategist but also to foster a more collaborative, cohesive, and successful business practice.
About me: Hello, my name is Kem-Laurin, and I am one half of the co-founding team of Human Tech Futures. At Human Tech Futures, we’re passionate about helping our clients navigate the future with confidence! Innovation and transformation are at the core of what we do, and we believe in taking a human-focused approach every step of the way.
We understand that the future can be uncertain and challenging, which is why we offer a range of engagement packages tailored to meet the unique needs of both individuals and organizations. Whether you’re an individual looking to embrace change, a business seeking to stay ahead of the curve, or an organization eager to shape a better future, we’ve got you covered.
Connect with us at https://www.humantechfutures.ca/contact