The Power of Design Thinking

by Laura on 11/29/2009 · 4 comments

Post written by Christa Avampato. You can follow Christa on Twitter and read more about what she’s up to on her blog.

The biggest risk that companies face today is not the work of their competitors; it’s the loss of employee engagement and loyalty.

The cultures of many large companies are literally rotting from the inside out. Cultures that took decades to create have descended into ruins in a matter of 18 months. CEOs need to look inward at who’s still around in their corridors; they need to make re-building trust and loyalty among their people their number 1 priority if they are to survive in this new economy.

It’s through the lens of these corporate survivors that I considered the Rotman School Design Thinking Experts Series, hosted by Thomson Reuters. My former boss, Bob, invited me because of my interest in innovation and change makers. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Bruce Nussbaum, Design and Innovation Columnist at Business Week, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School, and Will Setlief, VP of Marketing at Target, were panelists and shared their experience with design thinking and their outlook on the future of business.

I took away 5 main points from the talk that have been racing around in my mind ever since. As I was on vacation, I thought a lot about how I can take these five principle and encourage them in the large corporation where I currently work.

Here they are as food for thought:

1.)   The scientific method is about deductive reasoning. Design thinking is about expansive thinking. In companies, people need to receive training in design thinking, regardless of whether or not they are designers. Everything is subject to design and creativity. In our education system, children need to have the opportunity to create something new, not just analyze what’s already known.

2.)   See what’s really around us. Don’t think, strategize, and plan in your cubicle or conference room. There are no answers in your own four walls. The answers are walking around, living. Go out into the world, talk to customers, and watch them. Genius is in the doing.

3.)   Culture is derivative. You cannot change culture. You can change behavior, language, communications, and space. By creating new rituals, you can transform culture.

4.)   A well-crafted question is as valuable as a solution. Tim Brown talked about the black hole of design think – “where do the questions come from?” He advocates for spending most of our time on asking questions in many different ways. Every problem has its own solution baked in and it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience, to peel away a question’s layers to get to the solution.

5.)   Design thinking is never done. It is a process, not a goal or destination. It is a tool. Use it often.

Extra Reading For The Curious:

– To learn more, check out Tim Brown’s book Change by Design and Roger Martin’s book The Design of Business.

– Download IDEO’s Human Center Design toolkit and field guide free of charge at

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