Digital Skills Global
5 Ways Design Thinking Can Nurture a Culture of Innovation

5 Ways Design Thinking Can Nurture a Culture of Innovation

How to encourage and incubate innovation in your company

You may think design issues are only relevant to the ‘creatives’ in your organization. However, many companies have achieved significant success by embracing a Design Thinking approach. Using a Design Thinking approach can inspire and empower staff, leading to significant internal culture changes across every aspect of an organization.

Here we look at five ways in which Design Thinking can help nurture your organization’s innovation.

1. The tools you use should be exactly that - just tools to be used

Ensure there is a clearly defined goal that you are trying to achieve. It is important not to get too fixated on the machinery you want to use, and to remember they are only there to solve a particular goal. Design Thinking encourages staff to try new ways of doing things, use new materials, and try new methods. This approach requires team members to leave their comfort zone, but often results in new and innovative ways of working and collaborating.

2. The customer is the key focus of design thinking

Design Thinking requires that you know your customer intimately. Get their thoughts, input and feedback as often as possible. This will ensure you are still making something that will be of value to your customers. Do they understand how to use it, will they use it? Do they like it? Do they want it?

3. Listen to your customer’s feedback

Capture it, record it, consider and evaluate it. This feedback, hard though it may be to hear or even accept, is what will ultimately dictate the success or failure of the product you are building. Many companies have achieved legendary pivots (changes in direction) based on Design Thinking led feedback, which informed decisions about which products to build, expand and revise. The Slack work communication tool is the latest in a long line of products that emerged from the ashes of another failed project (a new game in Slack’s case).

4. Share the insights learned from a Design Thinking approach

It makes sense to ensure as many people see the ideas developed as possible. Design Thinking can help encourage an internal culture of asking seemingly stupid questions. What does it do? Why is it facing that way? How do you turn it on / off? It is surprising how often-bad products are developed because no one felt comfortable asking why something was the way that it was. Many companies often document the same insights multiple times, without realising someone else has already done so. A Design Thinking inspired show and tell approach can help to ensure that innovation is rapidly showcased and communicated within the organisation.

5. Understand that using Design Thinking within managed constraints will drive and inspire creativity and innovation

Human creativity knows no bounds and unfocused innovation can lead to unusable and unused products. Paul Allen, one-half of the very successful founders of Microsoft, tried to support an open-ended innovation centre. Unfortunately, without limits, a clear direction or budgetary constraints the project wildly overspent with nothing significant to show for it. Allen had to shut the initiative down, concluding too much freedom was not conducive to successful innovation in an organisation.

Compare Allen’s example with Apple’s strategy from 1997 until today, where Steve Jobs’ Design Thinking led vision has been embedded within the long term business strategy of Apple. His vision is clearly identifiable in modern Apple products and demonstrates the benefits of a managed Design Thinking approach.