Thinking Design

A recent article highlighted the hiring of thousands of designers by technology giant IBM. It is part of IBM’s drive to inculcate ‘design thinking’ into the organization. Design thinking is the latest management philosophy that has captured the imagination of the corporate world. But what is the difference between design and design thinking?


Ideas vs Structure
Design is about ideas. Specifically, it is about ideas to utilize existing resources to create fresh ‘products’. These products could range from trendy socks to 3D-printed prosthetic and multi-use rocket launch vehicles. Design thinking, on the other hand, is the ability to identify potential resources that can lead to ideas. For example, the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel is a product of great design. The ability to use Michelangelo’s art to create a religious
experience is an example of design thinking.

From an organizational standpoint, designers create great products. But if the organization is unable to create the right resources for them, they will be unable to do so. Here is where design thinking makes a difference.

An organization that embraces a design thinking philosophy ensures that good design is not incidental.

Synthesis vs Analysis
Synthesis is the ability to blend multiple ‘ideas’ into a coherent solution. Analysis is a scientific process of identifying the different possible solutions to a problem. A good designer can use analysis to synthesize. Design thinking will enable great analysis.

Design thinking oriented organizations create relevant structures to enable both analysis and synthesis

Answers vs Questions
Organizations, like people, are focused on answers. However, answers are only relevant if the questions are appropriate. Great design does not begin with answers. It begins with questions. Designers are stimulated through inquiry. Providing stimulating questions is the challenge that design thinking addresses. Organizations need to create a culture of constant probing, in order to innovate – how can they re-jig flawed concepts? How can they better
understand user needs? What may be factors contributing to better productivity?

As we move into an era of Big Data and Analytics, design is becoming increasingly important in creating a better sense of the information age. Design thinking will no longer be restricted to the product side of organizations. It will encompass all operations of the organization, from high-level product design to sustained improvements in employee productivity.

Is your organization ready to embrace design thinking?