Why is everyone so crazy about Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is currently very fashionable. A hype has arisen around the methodology for product development. Companies organise Design Thinking workshops with customers in their "innovation labs", entire company areas and project manager cohorts are trained in the method over many years. We are also convinced of the approach. But what promise does it hold?
Design Thinking empowers people, teams and businesses to (product) innovation and speed—both essential elements to survive in the digital age. At Semler Company, we are convinced that product innovation goes beyond the "product" that ends up with an end customer. Products of a Design Thinking process can also be leadership behaviours or a new corporate culture. We are even convinced that a Design Thinking approach is particularly suited to the development of a corporate culture in line with the digital age because it fosters learning of new behaviours and the definition of a new culture in an unprecedented way. So what is the core of design thinking and the culture that is created by it?
It sounds simple, but represents a paradigm shift: the focus on the deep needs of all those that we want to be useful to with what we offer—be it a personalised product, be it the work of a supporting role in a company, be it leadership that enables top performance. The Design Thinking process demands, first of all, an attitude of radical empathy that enables us to perceive deep needs and to explore them together with our counterpart. The findings from this process must then be aggregated. We must position ourselves, then think about the "product" and present a design (prototyping). Then we must be ready to conceive whatever we create as a prototype, never as a final product. We have to be ready to say goodbye to our cherished and beloved "product" the very moment in which we created and invented it, only to redefine it again and again (iterative testing). This is what acting in the best interest of our customers, users, colleagues means.
Companies have never worked like this on scale. Explaining and communicating what the change in behaviour means will only go so far. It is much more important to experience and to shape the new behaviours. Then the right mind set will follow suit. By implication, the cultural transformation process must also change. It must follow the guidelines that Design Thinking offers us and create a platform where experiences of empathy, perception, positioning, product development and testing are accessible on a grand scale. Then we will begin to live a new culture.