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Designing the future

  • Published at 08:08 pm June 21st, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:26 pm June 21st, 2017
Designing the future

Get busy innovating, or get busy dying.

In this hyper-competitive world, every organisation wants to stay ahead of the competition. In order to do that, it becomes necessary for them to innovate continuously.

In effect, innovation has become a survival strategy for many. From corporate manager to political leader, everyone is aware of the importance of innovation.

They organise seminars, symposiums, training and whatnot to bring innovation in both public and private domain.

But innovation is tough to accomplish. It is not a process where pressure will foster results. It doesn’t just come out of the blue. Even super motivation doesn’t help that much in this regard. So, what to do to keep innovating?

Innovation needs relations among disciplines, and an environment to grow. To bring innovation, you better think like a designer.

The word “design” is mostly associated with a new product, especially with development of aesthetically attractive products. However, since today’s world is far more complex than the world of the past, and every problem looks like a byzantine one, “design thinking” could be of immense help to problem solving and innovation.

But what is design thinking?

Design thinking is a creative process to solve complex problem. Normally, designers use this method to find solutions to various problems brought by clients. There is a basic difference between a usual mindset and a design mindset.

A design mindset is a solution focused, whereas the other one is problem focused. Design thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and reasoning that help to explore numerous possibilities to reach a desired end.

The human is put at the centre of this whole process. Design thinking flourishes in a rich culture of storytelling.

Tim Brown, the man behind the popularity of the design thinking concept, defines it as: “A discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible, and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Herbert Simon could be thought of as an ideal example of a design thinking mind, as his diverse knowledge from multiple fields made it possible for him to see things from a very different aspect than that of other so-called specialists.

Deep down, everyone is a designer, but of course, not everyone becomes a good one

He has defined “design” as the “transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones” which indicates that design thinking is always about an improved future.

Design thinking also differs from critical thinking, which is also a widely-used problem-solving process. In critical thinking, we “break down” ideas, whereas in design thinking we “build up” ideas.

Design thinking is a creative process where judgement is kept out of the equation, which eliminates fear of failure, and inspires wide participations.

Design thinking allows even the wildest of the ideas, as most creative solutions sometimes are originated from the wildest of the dreams.

Steve Jobs thought most of us make mistakes by thinking “design” is what a thing looks like. “Design” is more than that, and it goes deep down to the core, he argues.

Everything is designed

Everything around us, things that we can see and things that we can’t, are designed either intentionally or unintentionally. Our cognitive setups are mostly designed by the society where we live. Society itself is designed by the accumulated interactions of the lives and institutions.

However, the question can be raised as to whether these are well-designed or not. Nature itself is a prodigious design of the Creator. But we fail to appreciate these designs as these are very abstract and sometimes go beyond our cognitive capabilities.

Everyone is a designer

It is not impossible for everyone to think like a designer. In fact, deep down, everyone is a designer, but of course, not everyone becomes a good one. Everyone designs their life by the decisions they take. We need to think hard and deep -- keep our minds open and clean.

Design thinking corporations

Most successful global corporations are led by the design principles. Corporations such as Coca Cola, Apple, Nike, IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Whirlpool promote design thinking and easily outperform their rivals by big margins.

By thinking like designers, these firms have been successful in providing the best solutions to the problems their customers face in everyday life.

If they were to focus solely on the problems, they could be just another company. Focusing on customers has helped these firms design the best solutions possible, and sometimes even before the problem is felt. Design thinking has made it possible for them to innovate again and again.

A better future

Design thinking is not just a nice idea or a method to solve everyday challenges; rather, it could be a way of thinking, which could help us face the upcoming global challenges.

Design thinking could help us know these challenges better and come up with the right answers. Surely, design thinking promises a better world.

SM Musa is doing research on strategy and innovation. He writes from the Netherlands and can be reached at [email protected]