Design Thinking and Culture of Collaboration

| by Srini Penchikala on May 16, 2012. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Design thinking is about creating the future not just managing the present. It's also about spending more time on value creation than value capture. Bill Burnett, Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford University recently spoke about design thinking and what questions we need to ask to shift from design to design thinking. Design thinking is a way to find new problems in a strategic manner by thinking about new strategies, new systems, and new paradigms.

Bill said in almost all cases, the definition of the problem is incorrect. It's in the context of the symptom, not the root cause. He said design thinking approach helps with defining the problem from the root cause context.

Design thinking is about creating a culture to encourage creativity and radical collaboration (by bringing group members with different backgrounds and specializations to work together to solve problems).

Culture of ideas: Bill discussed some of the techniques like morphological analysis, and mindmapping to create solutions for the ideas they were trying to solve. He said if we choose from large number of ideas, we will choose better.

Culture of Prototyping: The culture of prototyping is also important in design thinking space. You should be building very low resolution, simple solutions (they don't have to be perfect) to help with creating prototypes and asking the customers if this is what they were thinking.

We also need a culture that values ideas and collaboration. He quoted Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford as saying "Culture eats process for lunch" so culture is very important. We should never mistake process for a culture. He described the approach they use at d school which includes steps like ideation, prototyping, iteration process, and then find a new point of view.

In the presentation, he also discussed the cultural barriers to design thinking which include personal blocks in the organization like semantic gaps where people use same words to mean different things and they also use different words to mean the same thing which leads to confusion. Small differences matter and teams are subject to misunderstandings. There are also social barriers like network challenges. He said there are solutions to each of these constraints.

Bill talked about value capture efforts using techniques like TQM, six sigma, lean startup, and agile systems. These different frameworks come from different points of view and are all valuable. But we should be focusing more on the value creation rather than just the value capture. This is where design thinking comes into picture. Companies like Apple and BMW are winning by design. He asked how much time we spend on value capture and how much on value creation. Value creation is about asking questions like do we matter, what is the purpose of this business, and how do we function to give the advantage and to be sustainable.

He also talked about doing things right versus doing right things. Doing things right is about asking questions like do we have a good process, are we hitting our tollgates, does everybody know where they are in the process. Doing things right is about execution and doing right things is about redefining the problem using different points of view. On this side of the equation, we ask questions like have we redefined the problem to be not of the symptom, but the root cause.

He suggested that we look at what patterns are emerging in our industry that require us to take a step back and do big picture thinking and pattern matching. As you do your todo list, have a category called "doing the right thing" i.e. creating the future. Otherwise, emergencies of the moment will end up taking up 100% of the time. Leadership in this space is important. Collaboration is not only important, but it's demanded.

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I like this by Dave Nicolette

Good concept expressed simply. I will remember it.

Re: I like this by Srini Penchikala

Thanks Dave. Design Thinking is an interesting topic and getting much attention in the areas of collaborative group thinking and innovation by design. Checkout the other resources Bill mentioned in his presentation on this topic.

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