I really enjoy watching the TV show Shark Tank. It’s fun to live vicariously through the entrepreneurs as they go through their pitch to the sharks. Some really kill it and some just crash and burn, but either way I find it quite entertaining. If you have seen the show, you might be like me and often find yourself saying, “that’s a great idea, why didn’t anybody ever think of that before.” Many of the participants on the show are inventors in the truest sense of the word. They can see a problem and come up with a solution where previously none existed. What is it that allows them to think so differently and come up with these great breakthrough solutions to age-old problems? And why can’t I do it? It could be that design thinking holds the answer.
The typical approach to problem solving is to research and thoroughly understand the problem so that you can map out a course of action to achieve the desired future state. The current state combined with past knowledge and experiences comprise a data set that can point to a logical conclusion. However, this approach will usually lead everyone to the same answer. In business, this is the comfortable route because it is justifiable. Even if we fail, our actions can be explained by the logical progressions that lead us down the path that we followed. This safe way of thinking can result in great incremental improvements, but no more than that. The formation of breakthrough ideas requires letting go of all the historical data and instead focus on the solution. This shift in focus can lead to vastly different results, but it can be very uncomfortable. It requires learning to follow a different set of rules than what is typically taught and expected. Here are the new rules:
Thinking about a solution first approach using these rules is what design thinking is all about. Obviously, there is much more to it, but this can help you to visualize what design thinking is and what it can mean to you and your company. It’s easy to see why not everyone operates this way. It is different, and scary, and maybe even a little bit dangerous, but so is swimming with sharks!
This was not intended to be a comprehensive guide to design thinking or an implementation plan. In future posts we will go into a little more detail on design thinking. The goal is to transform this commonly misunderstood buzzword into an actionable component that you can add to your toolkit.