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Design thinking is a superpower in times of transformation
18.07.2022
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7min
Design thinking is a superpower in times of transformation
People. Leadership and management. Culture
McKinsey specialists once calculated that the results of so-called design-driven companies outperform others by 2.5 times. Their innovations are born and die faster (successful ones are implemented faster, and unsuccessful ones are killed as soon as possible), their profits are more significant, and the efficiency of processes is higher. So, there is a rational justification for teaching design thinking to managers and employees at any level. This topic was the focus of the three groups of the Executive MBA program with Remko Lenstra, professor at the Antwerp Management School.

Instead of an introduction

I help companies implement design thinking not because I want every employee to become an outstanding designer. And because I believe: that design thinking has a significant impact on business sustainability.

The phenomenon of this approach is that it is elementary to explain and very difficult to master. Therefore, people and companies need to give themselves time to see the effect of design thinking. It is not enough to perform a particular process. It is necessary to develop several skills. However, it is worth it! Design thinking is a compelling methodology and a helpful way of thinking.

Paradigm change: management

A few decades ago, from the 1980s to the 2000s, many companies operated primarily within a command-and-control approach. They grew too large sizes, remaining hierarchical. And they often bent the stick with control, micromanagement, and the creation of various procedures. For example, one Danish company has developed a method for installing and removing a Christmas tree.

To be a professional in those days meant doing just that: formulating procedures and/or following them. People had apparent job descriptions. We can say that the company was a very complex structure, and the jobs in it were straightforward.

We are moving in the opposite direction: to simple organizations with complex jobs. Today's work is no longer limited to the inscription on the business card. Employees participate in creating the future of their company. A business needs the collective intelligence of its team to succeed. And the unit itself must be multifunctional and autonomous and have many skills. People in such groups are more motivated, learn better, and solve complex and unexpected tasks.

So, now we are witnessing a change in the work paradigm. From Hierarchy to Local Decision Making. From Command and Control to Servant Leadership. From functions and well-defined positions to roles. From a focus on individual performance to team performance. What helps companies move in this direction? This is where design thinking comes in handy.

Paradigm shift: design

The approach to design is also changing. Instead of a controlled function, it becomes a driver of transformations and even strategy. If earlier, design often meant product design. Now it usually refers to the design of services and systems. Design is increasingly understood as a methodology that can benefit the organization rather than just performing tasks to certain specifications.

And besides solving problems (problem-solving), design can set them (problem setting) and help to understand them better. If you've ever conducted a focus group that didn't solve its intended purpose but was extremely interesting and valuable, you know what I'm talking about. Design becomes a way to understand a problem and share that understanding with others.

Nowadays, design is not "for someone" (client, consumer, etc.) but "with someone." Design is already co-creation. And his goal is often not so much profit as an influence. What or whom exactly — the business itself decides. But most importantly, design helps to find the easiest and most practical way to achieve maximum impact.

The design has evolved from product creation to system modeling over the past decades. I believe that design thinking is one of the most critical transformation skills. After all, it is not enough to determine how you want to influence the system. It is also essential to have a methodology to model this intervention.

Double effect

A friend of mine came up with this definition: Design Thinking is designed for non-designers. It was invented for designers, but the whole company can benefit from it. Design thinking allows you to transform a design from a narrow specialization into a standard methodology for the entire organization. In other words, it is the democratization of the design process.

At the company level, design thinking is a social technology for change, enabling people to work together for change. Tim Brown says that design thinking brings "creative confidence" to a company, helping it be bolder, even in uncertainty. And the more uncertainty around, the more valuable are courage and confidence.

On a personal level, design thinking changes our brain, makes it more plastic, and creates new neural connections. Accordingly, by practicing design thinking, we make it one of our usual thinking styles, so we can "turn on" it when needed. And design thinking relieves people of the fear of uncertainty.

They say. First, we sharpen our tools, and then they point us. The same happens with design thinking. First, we study its processes and tools, which later transform our organization and us. And this, probably, is the most important goal and value of design thinking.

And then...

Professor Lenstra also introduced the participants of EMBA-36, EMBA-37, and EMBA-38 to the components of the design thinking methodology, talked about essential aspects of its application and shared helpful links.

And the participants were able to try design thinking "to taste" by working in small groups and reflecting on the results. This is how value is often born in MBA programs at kmbs: at the intersection of a quick perspective and applied solutions.

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