Solid design thinking leads to adaptable, flexible, and responsive organizations. So what does it mean to think like a designer? It includes having empathy for users, creating design models, prototyping, tolerating failure, and exhibiting thoughtful restraint.
- Empathy for users: uncovering what users want and need and providing insight into what user aspirations, concerns, desires, engagement, and experiences are.
- Creation of design models: understanding the current state design of an organization is necessary to create design models which explore, define, and communicate design issues or problems.
- Prototyping: generating possibilities of the future state design of an organization for the purpose of exploring, defining, and communicating design solutions.
- Tolerance for failure: recognizing that good design is iterative and required for learning and fostering innovation. Additionally, tolerance for failure gives employees a safe space to try out their ideas.
- Exhibiting thoughtful restraint: defining what a solution should and should not do: less is more.
In agile project management methodology, every design milestone is organized around understanding and adding value for the end user and getting constant feedback throughout the process. This principle demonstrates empathy for users and the importance of prototyping.
When a mechanical engineer creates multiple prototype options for a new car, he or she often puts the models in front of consumers for feedback. The engineer wants to test his or her interpretation of what customers say they want, and focus groups help validate the feasibility of those solutions. Some car companies, like Honda, for example, have been known to delay new model launches until they get the design right, exhibiting great tolerance for failure and desire to succeed.
An architect carefully listens to his or her client before drafting up proposals for how to redesign a building. In organization design, we take special care to articulate design criteria for what we want our new organization to achieve before we even create models and options. That way, we know when we are on target with a solution and when we have strayed too far from our goal.
Design thinking is a mentality and an approach to problem solving which transcends the boundaries of business and industry. The principles of design thinking hold true whether you are a project manager, an architect, city planner, product developer, software engineer, or organization designer.