3 min read

Is Design Thinking For Me?

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Design thinking has, over the years, progressed a lot, and with good reason. 

The digital age is one structured around customer-centricity and appealing to the emotions to develop long-term brand resonance. Design thinking therefore, has become more an important process that caters to feedback and actions upon it. 

A few years ago, two giants of the media world, Fortune and The New York Times, offered insight into the mindset of two companies at very different points on the 'design thinking' spectrum: Nike and IBM.
It is important to know that every company has to go through its own process of determining how and where design thinking fits. These examples, while older, exhibit those differences. 

At IBM, Phil Gilbert was appointed to General Manager of Design in 2015. Soon after, he made it his aim to hire and train no less than 1,000 designers in order to reinvent the customer experience, something that IBM’s executive team identified as a means to pivot for better gain.

On the other end is Nike and Mark Parker - a still practising sneaker designer - who oversees profits and stock prices. While the reference to design thinking is minimal, it's hard to ignore the fact that product development and the consumer experience is a core part of Nike's DNA.

Watch any of their video ads and you'll see how tightly woven the consumer experience and emotion is to the brand.

Image of asian girl holding a lightbulb drawing behind a white board with illustrations on design thinking

Success is of course relative for these two very different companies. For Nike, strong design practice is necessary, let alone implied, in order to be successful sportswear producers for the consumer market. For IBM, it was more of a realignment and shift away from a model mainly focused on the business and the enterprise. 

These days, people focus on building the product right (by adopting Agile ways of working) because with competition, sometimes you only ever get one chance. Applying design thinking allows businesses to see whether they are fulfilling their target market's needs. 

This process requires identifying customer needs, focusing on the appropriate problems and getting the right product-to-market fit followed by building it incrementally and iteratively to minimise risk. 

While some businesses might still label this as a fad, the truth is that as consumers become more discerning, the demand for human-centric design i.e design thinking is almost a requirement to build brand loyalty, consumer-driven products and brand relevance. Competition is rife and the one who drops the ball on the consumer front may find their position filled by someone else.

Now, how well design thinking can be applied to your business depends on how your company views it and what the goals are. Ultimately though, this is a process that has long-term benefits and like the digital age, is here to stay, right up until it evolves into the next stage.

Therefore, the right question here isn't is design thinking for me and instead, How can I apply design thinking to my work?

A version of this article on Design Thinking was first written and published by Daryl Chan on why innovation! The original article can be read here.