Back in the 1950s, the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) came up with a new subject, ‘Design Science.’ Initially, it fostered a clinical and technical approach to problem-solving, but over the decades, it has come to be known as ‘Design Thinking.’
Design thinking is often called as the process designers use to solve problems and create desired solutions for end-users/clients. It is a fusion of logic, creativity, intuition, and structured reasoning. Design Thinking delves into the possibilities to create a viable and beneficial outcome for the customer.
Design-led companies are among some of the biggest players in their respective domains. Names like Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, Nike and Whirlpool have performed exponentially better than their rivals as per assessment made by Design Management Institute in 2015 1. Steve Jobs built Apple on the strength of Design Thinking and in his article, ‘The Guts of a New Machine’, published in New York Times, he stated:
Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like.People think it is this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Steve Jobs was a visionary who leveraged design thinking to create disruptive products that made Apple, the behemoth it is today. It is a real need for the contemporary businesses to deal with extremely intricate technological and business scenarios. What worked five years ago doesn’t work now, and what works now is unlikely to work five years hence. There has to be a convergence between design thinking and business strategy. It is this amalgamation known as design strategy that will deliver desired results in the future business environment.
Traditionally, design has been relegated to the design team. However, this approach is detrimental to accelerated growth. A great UX Strategy has to be collaborative. Its elements include culture, and feed backs from cross-functional users. Would it be sensible for a team designing laptops to focus only on the business users’ needs? Or, would it be better to understand the needs of other user segments like gamers, graphic designers, music artists or photographers and video graphers?
Design strategy comes up with the same idea to approach all the challenges faced by a business. Some call it ‘collective expertise.’ It results in optimal company-wide innovations.
A major takeaway of design thinking as a business strategy is the emphasis on the eventual user. While creating a UX Strategy, it is essential to keep in mind as to who the end user of the proposed solution will be. This will lead to development of exactly what is needed. Imagine a simpler scenario of how the top executives would think of employee benefits. To view it from the financial or operational perspective wouldn’t be effective. It has to be contemplated from the employees’ point of view and what impact it would make on them as the end users.
In a design strategy scenario, designers pitch their concepts to clients or sales and marketing teams who either disapprove of it or suggest modifications for various reasons. Validating ideas by creation of prototypes or sketches would facilitate an early stage feedback resulting in major enhancements, creation of disrupting products, and a more efficient way of doing things, right from the top leadership down to the customer service levels.
These factors prove how design thinking has to be convergent with business strategy for faster and greater growth in all verticals. It would also be greatly cost effective and less of a drain on the human and material resources that might otherwise be wasted in creating solutions that eventually fail to work. The utility of this practice is beyond doubt, irrespective of the type or scale of a business’s operations.