Design Thinking to Effect Cultural Change and New Approach to Innovation

  • godrejbiro
  • March 5, 2018

Deepa Bachu for PC Quest

This article was first published in PCQuest

Organisations today are all looking to reassess culture and shake things up from within to spark innovation and sharpen efficiency. In the time of the fast and the new if you’re not keeping pace you’re really no longer in the race.

Cultural change can only happen if there is a shift in prevalent mental models (which don’t really come to surface but act at a subconscious level) and if organisations are willing to let go of biases that hold them back from seeking out new courses of action, ones that may even disrupt the way things are currently done.

New ideas cannot grow in old organisational structures. It’s only when people with different perspectives and diverse backgrounds come together that we will start to see real and meaningful change. This would challenge long held beliefs and trigger new ideas and thoughts. 

Design thinking by its very nature requires people with diverse backgrounds to come together to solve a problem or innovate. It encourages independent thinking along with collaboration. What it does rather well is that it creates a culture of continuous learning and questioning. It’s not uncommon to hear rallying cries for collaboration by leaders, as a key to get innovative within organisations. The challenge though is that collaboration needs an alignment of purpose and a clarity on “what do we need to solve for”? 

Co-create to set the base & pace for collaboration 

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results- Andrew Carnegie. 

Co-creation is a critical element, as it sets the base for collaboration & cooperation to kick in. Trust us when we say this, magic starts to happen when you co-create – with your colleagues across functions, with your partners (external) but more importantly the end-users for whom you set out to create awesome experiences for. Future commercial success should be rooted in and seen through the lens of putting humans at the centre of everything the organisation does.

We already know that organisations and people are constantly looking to re-invent themselves and innovation is a really desirable outcome to grow the business and to keep employees engaged. CXO’s, government officials, social innovators, front line leaders and entrepreneurs all have that one thing in common - the desire to innovate, the desire to initiate change. So why is innovation then not as prevalent, you might ask?

It’s certainly not for lack of trying! Here’s where the opportunity lies

1. Find a problem that is worth solving!  

If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions – Albert Einstein

Tendency is to get to solution quickly, it is fun and something you can easily show for the time you spent innovating. In fact, as human beings we are genetically engineered to solve problems, we can’t help ourselves, it is the way we’ve always approached creativity. The challenge though is that you just may be solving the wrong problem or, it is a problem not worth solving. 

We believe you need to first articulate the problem and define what success looks like for your customers. The problem definition needs to be the starting point for innovation. We dream of a world where hackathons and innovation galleries facilitate just as much time finding the problem as they do solving the problem.

2. Empathise with your customers & their ecosystem

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another – Alfred Adler

We are not talking here about simply validating or testing ideas with the customers. It is about being obsessed with your customer. Of course your customers are not going to tell you what they need… most times they cannot imagine the future you can. It is for you to understand them so you can deeply articulate customer insights, insights that inspire innovation. 

We all have biases; these biases keep us from truly empathising. The hardest part is that some biases are unconscious, so yeah, you don’t even know you have them! Have conversations with your customers, elicit stories that give you lots of material to understand your customers and articulate insights. Don’t forget to trust your gut, if something seems surprising or interesting to you, dig deeper and get more customer stories.

Don’t stop with understanding your customer, understand their ecosystem. The touch points where you can create that magic, that differentiator that sets you apart from everybody else. You never know where your missed opportunity lies if you don’t map out the ecosystem 

Design thinking being a combination of creative and critical thinking, is a proven and repeatable problem solving protocol that any business, profession or individual can employ to achieve desired results. For a culture to take shape it has to begin with a top-down approach where customer centricity becomes the focus of the top leadership. This customer centric strategy will drive the need to design for unmet customer, allowing you to truly fall in love with the problem and not the solution.

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