Sunday, 12 January 2014

Design thinking for social innovation

"Leaders now look to innovation as a principal source of differentiation and competitive advantage; they would do well to incorporate design thinking into all phases of the process" - Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

The management philosophy commonly referred to as design thinking strives to cultivate a creative and human-centred company culture to foster innovation. Today many social businesses are applying its principles to achieve extraordinary results.

A look at the concept

Wikipedia refers to design thinking as "the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.

A popular author on the subject is Roger L. Martin. In The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage he writes about "a form of thought that enables movement along knowledge. It requires a different kind of thinking, which demands a different way of organising work."

Martin suggests the employment of "the stance, tools and experiences."

  • Stance: is our view of the world and our role in it. "The designer thinker develops a stance that puts a priority on seeking validity and making advances in knowledge, even if that stance places the thinker at odds with the organisation's culture."
  • Tools: are the model that we use to understand our world and organise our thinking. "In addition to mastering tools for analysing the past and using that analysis to predict the future, the design thinker develops the capacity for observation, for seeing features that others may miss."

  • Experiences: are what build and develop our skills and sensitivity over time.
"Design thinkers use their experiences to deepen their mastery of the current knowledge forward to the next stage."

Another authoritative voice in this field is CEO of IDEO Tim Brown. In an Harvard Business Review's article titled Design Thinking, he examines the common traits of design thinkers:

  • Empathy. They imagine the world from multiple perspectives by taking a "people first" approach.

  • Integrative thinking. They exhibit the ability to see all of the salient - and sometimes contradictory - aspects of a confounding problem and create novel solutions.

  • Optimism. They assume that no matter how challenging the constraints of a given problem, at least one potential solution is better than the existing alternatives.

  • Experimentalism. They pose questions and explore constraints in creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions.

  • Collaboration. The increasing complexity of products, services, and experiences has replaced the myth of the lone creative genius with the reality of the enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaborator.

In an interview with Ideas Projects, the author expands on the implications of communications technology for businesses.


Design thinking and social innovation

As Brown suggests in the video above, there is much to benefit from 'thinking like a designer.' Organisations can support the flow of engaging conversations and innovative ideas to advance business results.

Today, this is especially applicable thanks to the rise of social media in the large enterprise. Networks amplify voices and the co-creation of content, services, and products globally. Multiple players are involved in re-shaping organisational's symbols and meanings. Broader interactions and diverse perspectives come together and enable a new type of 'social innovation'.

The opportunity for managers is to facilitate the movement of knowledge across the nodes to bring insights to the next level and transform it into business value.

For example, a company doing this is manufacturer of pumps Grundfos. They are driving growth and innovation by making social both the way of doing business and a vital management competence. "Key skills for the manager of the future are related to communities, collaboration, empowerment and business technologies," says Grundfos's Thomas Asger Hansen. His colleague Martin Risgaard Rasmussen also adds that this change requires a new degree of "confidence" as well as an experimental attitude." The company has created a Social Business Council that work on the strategy both internally and externally by generating priorities. It helps the organisation to better leverage opportunities. Internally they work on social empowerment, digital literacy, social CRM, and social business intelligence. Externally they look at improving cross company collaboration as well as customer service communities.

"It is about people, communication, relationships and behaviours. As such, it requires a new mind-set which recognises the value of engaging in dialogues rather than purely broadcasting messages" - Martin Risgaard Rasmussen, Grundfos

If you would like to know more about Grundfos, you can read the whole story at simply-communicate.

Grundfos will also be featured at SMiLE London - the conference on Social Media in the Large Enterprise by simply-communicate - on 17th March 2014.