May 16, 2018

4 reasons why design thinking fails

It’s not the Methodology, it’s the Application

‘Design Thinking’ has become one of most popular programs for organizations who want to achieve transformation through innovation. Many organizations are trying their hands at implementing ‘Design Thinking’, but surprisingly, even after running the full cycle of ‘Design Thinking’ a number of times, they are still not seeing the results and  benefits they expected.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why ‘Design Thinking’ fails:

1. Wrong Mindset:
Peter Drucker, the management guru, once said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. What he meant was, no matter how brilliant a strategy or idea may be, if it runs counter the organization’s culture, it will never work. Design Thinking is both a skill and mindset. It requires a complete re-orientation of attitudes to risk taking, failure, and concern for loss of face. The cultural challenges in many Asian cultures are particularly strong in these areas and unless these issues are addressed as part of your innovation strategy, the prevailing will eat your innovation strategy as Drucker predicted.

2. Unrealistic Expectations:
“We tried Design Thinking, it didn’t work”. We’ve heard this from organizations many times and it defines one of the biggest obstacles in building design thinking capability. ‘Design Thinking’ is a process that, used correctly, will help you identify the right problem and build to find the best solution to solve it. But it’s not a magic wand or a one-off fix; it takes time and persistence to master design thinking. The ‘Design Thinking’ program does not have a pre-built solution in itself – it gives you skillset and mindset to find genuinely innovative solutions to high-value unserved needs; but do not expect to generate an industry disrupting innovation at the end of your first training session. You need to master the methodology and mindset, and manage your expectations while you learn.

3. Lack of Persistence:
Another consequence of unrealistic expectations is a lack of persistence – giving up too soon.  ‘Design Thinking’ is not an event or a project, it’s a necessary core capability for our era and should be a natural part of your activities. When applied in innovation projects, it is important to understand that multiple iterations are built into the design thinking process. A famous example is the penetrating spray WD-40, which is so named because it was 40th attempt to formulate it. What if they had given up after the first or 20th or 39th attempt? Many times organization do not have the perseverance to stick to an idea long enough to see it come to fruition. They are used to solving simple problems and finding easy fixes and that is not what Design Thinking is for. Design Thinking tackles deep, human-centered needs and you need to work towards the solution one iteration at a time.

4. Lack of Vision:
Bill Burnett, Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford University says “You can’t fix a problem that you don’t think you have”.  He stresses the importance of understanding what you are trying to do before you start with ‘Design Thinking’. If you just ask someone to think of a great idea, it’s too broad and actually shuts down creativity. You need to understand your context, what is happening to your business? Where do you want to compete? What are your strategic innovation intents? It’s certainly not about beginning with the end in mind, but it is about beginning with a clear vision of the areas where you need to innovate. Without this clarity of vision, you’re just hoping that you get lucky.

Get out of your own way and let it work:
‘Design Thinking’ delivers if you let it; all you need to do is get out of your own way and let it work. It takes time but every application, every iteration, moves you closer to that breakthrough innovation. And, while it is doing that, it is also transforming your culture – changing how your people view risk and failure; instilling a bias towards action and human-centered solutions. You’re absolutely right to expect great things of ‘Design Thinking’, just don’t expect it overnight or give up after the first try.

 Why is Design Thinking important for business 

Why is Design Thinking important for business

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