Design is about enhancing the way you look at the world, beyond making something visually beautiful, better businesses combine design and strategy to identify and harness opportunities to drive change.

Introducing design principles to the strategic planning of an organization enables them to create new business models and help you decide which tools to use in order to learn something new, persuade others, but most importantly to take action and innovate.

It could be obvious that both fashion and interior design firms incorporate these principles when creating new products or services, however, the question is if they are using them to develop the core of business innovation: new systems, protocols, customer experiences, and even revenue models.  

Innovation has become one of the most popular buzzwords in business, it seems it has as many different meanings as the people approaching it. Nevertheless, just like disruption and strategy, it is crucial to avoid this ambiguity in order to identify where we need to move forward as a company according to our long term vision.

Design thinking is one of the many creative tools and frameworks that gained popularity because the nature of the process allows teams to have valuable insights in a short period of time.  IDEO, who has been acknowledged as the creator of the concept, defines it as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”.

The starting point has to be a defined problem or challenge to solve, having a clear big question is the first step to think about the possible ways to approach it, the outcome of implementing a design thinking process should be the intersection between desirability, viability and feasibility. 

When reading the definition one can understand why post-its have become a “must have” in every ideation meeting, according to Parson’s study Parts Without a Whole? – The Current State of Design Thinking in organizations‘, 75% of the consulted companies implement Design Thinking. It is important  to acknowledge however, that the process itself does not guarantee innovation, it requires practice, a foundation of study, and probably an external consultant until the leadership team masters the new mindset.

A superficial approach might lead into unsatisfying results, mainly because the process is rushed, the investigation comes short or the team never moves into the implementation phase of the innovative solution.  Parson’s study also adds that if Design Thinking is  applied in an isolated manner instead of a mindset that goes through the entire organization, the chances of failing increase.

Where do I start? And more importantly, how do I  know if this is the best approach for my brand?

  1. Understand your expectations and what you would like to accomplish: Success and failure often seem to be linked with the practitioners’ understanding of the concept itself. This means that you have to be aware of the context, but also know your team and their preferences, to choose what kind of design thinking they need. Leadership teams must be involved when solving  innovation strategy issues.
  2. Assess if your brand has inhouse capabilities to introduce design thinking into the organization or if it is better to hire external consultants: Even though it is possible to self-train through literature, professional courses on both the concept and the process are the best approach if you want to lead the innovation strategy with this tool and move forward into a learning-by doing-phase, patience, time and dedication are needed to master the practice.
  3. Consider that an innovation strategy requires method, culture, and mindset: As stated previously, a superficial approach will lead into a superficial outcome. The only way to develop consistent innovation is to iterate the process, there is no unique answer since our customers, environment, technological needs and markets are in constant change. The good news is that Design Thinking is nurtured by iteration because every learning drives new insights.  

Design brands are facing the challenge of reinventing themselves in uncertain times, a lot of the solutions we have seen are focusing on the symptoms instead of the problem. A product or marketing campaign that solves the short-term pain might not be suitable for the long-term challenge. The Design Thinking approach facilitates the understanding of these complex problems and a creative solution by asking the right questions and rethinking what you are doing.

It is important to notice that “creative” does not  necessarily mean “disruptive” and that the success of the approach is achieved through discipline, focus and willingness to keep re-framing the problem as long as the circumstances keep changing.