Understanding design thinking and its growing significance amongst today’s organizations

If we think about the most innovative companies across the globe today, the names that would certainly come to our minds are behemoths like Apple, Google, and Disney, among others. If we observe closely, all of these organizations that have grown big and world-famous over time, thrive on the pillar of innovation. As a matter of fact, in today's world of cut-throat competition and hyper-clutter, every organization is required to be innovative and customer-centric to the fullest if it wants to survive and thrive. And when it comes to inculcating innovation and customer-centricity into the organizational culture, ‘design thinking’ is nowadays becoming an indispensable part of it.

Simply put, ‘design thinking’ is about developing a framework to generate new ideas and think with clarity at scale. Now, what is meant by scale here? Well, it refers to a robust thinking pattern that can be adopted quickly by hundreds or thousands of people working for an organization. There are many companies across the world who are implementing or have already implemented the concept of design thinking to grow optimally. Let’s take the example of Disney – one of the most successful creative ventures in the history of humankind, which has been using design thinking to constantly and consistently generate innovative ideas daily to remain relevant in today's world. Notably, Disney's 3-stage design thinking framework is called: “The Dreamer, The Realist, and The Critic.

Let's understand each of these stages in detail:

1) The Dreamer: Only those who dare to dream beyond obstacles can innovate! So, in this first step, people are allowed to freely express their dream or design. This allows the team to think vividly without fearing criticism or restrictions; this in turn creates the budding ground for the most ambitious ideas.

Few of the questions needed to be asked in this stage are:

  • What problem(s) does the organization aim/want to solve?

  • What is/are the possible solution(s)?

  • How do we imagine the solution?

2) The Realist: After all the ideas are generated at the Dreamer stage, the team moves on to the next phase, where they start thinking about how they can achieve the dream or make the ideas come to life that they have considered. This step is all about thinking logically, realistically and constructively.

The questions needed to be asked in this stage are:

  • How can one make the idea(s) come true?

  • How should we plan our solution(s) based on the current reality?

  • What could be the next plan of action to make the dream come to life?

3) The Critic: Once the team has an action plan, the next step is to define the project's obstacles and how to overcome them. In this phase, teams constructively try to identify the critical road blockers and think about how to overcome them the plan.

At this stage, teams broadly need to answer:

  • What is the feasibility of the idea?

  • What are the roadblocks and bottlenecks?

  • What are technical constraints and the possibility of overcoming them?

Needless to say, this excellent design thinking framework need not just stay limited to Disney, but it is something that every organization can replicate to reap its advantages. There are many other such frameworks proposed/suggested by the experts, companies, consultants and others in order to achieve impeccable outcomes for today’s organizations with design thinking. However, by and large, design thinking is broadly an iterative process that usually consists 5 steps:

  • People-centeredness: Keep customers or clients at the helm of your product/service. Leave all your biases aside and get into customers' shoes by examining their pain points and concern. Understand their feelings and appreciate them as humans. This ensures that the problem you are trying to solve is appropriate for your users.

  • Define: Define your problem thoroughly. A Problem well-stated is half-solved. Don't be in a hurry to solve the problem. First, ensure that you are solving the right problem.

  • Ideate: Ideation is a creative process where teams/people generate ideas in sessions. Participants gather together with open minds to produce as many ideas as possible to address one (or more) problem statement(s) in a facilitated, judgment-free environment.

  • Prototype: Start small with minor innovations by tweaking the system. Create smaller solutions that can fit into the existing system.

  • Test: Test your ideas/prototypes with real people in their natural environments. And then iterate them to improve upon their functionality, effectiveness and thus solving for customer-centricity as well.

Lastly, here’s something you need to take note of -- design thinking is a non-linear process that is often customized based on the situation and problem statement at hand. The five steps (as mentioned above) need not be followed in any specific order, and few of the steps can be even omitted if and when needed, depending on the kind of organization you are.

The article is authored by Rahul KC, Co-Founder, Ungrammary for Indiatimes