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Turning Design Thinking Into Design Doing


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Design is not a one-shot vaccine; it’s an …

Design is not a one-shot vaccine; it’s an
‘innovation fitness program’ that puts an
organization on top of its game. From the Rotman school

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  • 1. Turning Design Thinking into Design Doing The principles of design can be applied to generate breakthrough thinking over incremental thinking. Here’s how to get started. by Heather Fraser 24 • Rotman Magazine Spring/Summer 2006
  • 2. Design is one of the hottest topics in the But beyond these dimensions, the core traits: open-minded collaboration, business arena today, dubbed the new driver principles and practices behind all great courage, and conviction. of innovation and the new competitive design can be more broadly leveraged into weapon. This year, it even got its due at general problem-solving and, most impor- Open Up: Design doing is a non-starter Davos, where the World Economic tantly, the reframing of opportunities in a without open-minded collaboration. This Forum featured a roster of programs on strategic sense. This is what is often means everyone on the team needs to be new thinking about innovation and the value referred to as ‘design thinking’. receptive to everyone and everything in of design as a means of unlocking break- Design disciplines of all kinds (engi- order to achieve something worthwhile. through ideas [including three sessions led neering, architecture, graphics, industrial Openness requires not only a commitment by Rotman Dean Roger Martin.] design and others) teach things not typi- to ‘working together’, but also an earnest Imagine if everyone could get in on cally taught in business and management receptiveness to new ideas (good and bad), what the world’s leading innovators are dis- schools. When we study the ways the an interest in every new insight – whether covering; we’d see more value and less ‘design world’ thinks and makes things, it fits your preconceived paradigm or not, waste – of energy (human and otherwise), there are patterns that emerge in terms of and an allowance to imagine the possibili- time and money. But before design can mindset and method that are just as valu- ties of what could be, no matter how impact human and economic value to its able to business and not-for profit unreasonable or infeasible ideas may seem. fullest potential, it must be translated into endeavors as they are in the design realm. Designers get a charge out of new ideas, an accessible, ‘doable’ program.Those who In fact, any organization on a mission new partners and new possibilities. They are intrigued by design need to be able to to create economic and human value – be it feed off of new insights and effectively build grasp its core notions and begin to put its a federal government agency or a well- off the ideas of others, embracing both the principles and practices into play, with a established commercial enterprise – can friction and fusion that comes with intense long-term conviction to shifting their cul- harness the power of design thinking to collaboration. ture by driving the philosophy throughout drive true innovations. the entire organization. Is it all about creativity? No. Creativity Go out on a limb: The right emotional cir- Whether your goal is to develop new is technically the ability to create something cumstances will inspire courage to products or services, a new way of market- new. Design is about the process of making experiment and play with new ideas. Great ing to your customer, or to reinvent your or doing something new. And that’s where design does not come without risk-taking entire business model, ‘design thinking’ design is more aligned with innovation on a and trying new things, with the very strong holds valuable clues as to how to get to big- grand scale – it is not an attribute, it is fun- possibility of failure. IDEO, one of the ger ideas, faster and more efficiently. And damentally about action. world’s greatest innovation labs, has count- while there are many methods for fueling innovation, the principles and practices behind design are so intuitive and have such Design is about the process of making or a pedigree of success, it is hard to question their value. doing something new. It is not an attribute, The purpose of this article is to trans- late inspiration into implementation by it is fundamentally about action. highlighting the learning and practices of those who have discovered how to turn Finally, the process of ‘design doing’ is less stories of where a really ‘bad’ or ‘crazy’ design thinking into design doing. not about establishing a new set of rules – idea became the germ of a brilliant con- it is about a fundamental shift in culture – a cept. How often have we heard someone Design vs. Design Thinking reframing of the collective mindset and ask, “What if it doesn’t work?” or claim, “If Most people associate the word ‘design’ methods of working that infuses your cul- I do that I may get fired.” Creating a culture with a physical manifestation of form and ture with the spirit of innovation in a way of courage is not just about making people function – an aesthetic that appeals to the that is consistent and sustained. brave enough to go out on a limb, it is about discerning user, a form that creates a satis- creating the right conditions in which brave fying user experience, a physical and The Mindset Defines the Conditions and intelligent people can perform – condi- emotional ‘journey’ for the user in spatial The first step is to extract the ‘attitude’ tions of integrity, trust, and tolerance for terms, or an engineering accomplishment behind design. There have been scores of risk-taking. All of these are related back to that makes the concept viable, technically great articles written about the mindset of open-minded collaboration, as integrity is and economically. All of these are valid and those who design, all pointing to some the root of trust, which is the fuel for col- valuable interpretations of design, relating inspiring characteristics that most of us laboration. If you don’t create an to the craft and technical expertise of the admire and would willingly embrace open-minded environment, even the most design field that helps to create human and under the right conditions. The most courageous individual will not succeed. economic value for the world. notable themes fall into three general Rotman Magazine Spring/Summer 2006 • 25
  • 3. Don’t give up: No great design is realized salaries are invested. Most ‘growth initia- mouse for Apple was perfected by IDEO without conviction. Conviction is the tives’ take the form of line extensions and following extensive prototyping and itera- absolute unwillingness to give into con- expansions; concepts are developed, and tion in order to meet the seemingly straints and obstacles. Dean Roger then tested with the consumer they know impossible requirement of increased relia- Martin states that the single biggest attitu- in a certain way for specific products or cat- bility at 10 per cent of the original cost of its dinal driver in breakthrough success is a “no trade-offs” mindset – the attitude of those who dive into ‘wicked problems’ and If you begin with the user and look at see constraints as a juicy challenge rather than a reason to give in and settle for less. the broader context of their lives, you While there are many important emo- tional conditions under which design will suddenly see a whole new set of thinking can flourish, without those out- lined above, innovation through the practice opportunities to be tapped. of design will never get off the ground.The psychology of the individual and collective egories. If research suggests incremental Xerox version. Similarly, concept cars are is the foundation for success. sales with minimal investment risk, it’s ‘all unveiled at auto shows to generate customer systems go’. This is a very responsible way feedback and further refine the design. The Methodology – Gearing Up to stretch more out of your current activity With the ‘big idea’ in hand, you then With the right emotional conditions in system, with largely incremental results. take on lever three, strategic business place, the next step is to DO something Then there’s the ‘breakthrough route’, design, to model a unique system of ‘strate- together, focusing on a few core compo- where innovation really thrives. If you gic hubs’ and ‘supporting activities’ that will nents rather than a litany of rules, process begin with the user and set out on a path to not only deliver value to the user, but also maps and formulas. There are many tools look at the broader context of their lives competitive advantage and profit to you. and techniques in design, but for it to and activities, you will suddenly see a Pushing the concept through to a point that become culturally embedded in an organi- whole new set of opportunities to be it is viable and profitable is not easy – this is zation, three ‘forces’ have to converge: a tapped. The Illinois Institute of Technol- where the ‘no trade-offs’ attitude pays off. It deep user understanding; multiple proto- ogy’s Institute of Design has developed an requires a lot of hard work and many itera- typing; and strategic business design. In ethnographic methodology for understand- tions, but every team behind a great designworks™, we call these forces ‘the ing the user’s ‘activity’ (versus product breakthrough will tell you that their convic- three gears of design’. usage) that reveals a whole new set of tion and collaboration pushed the project opportunities and helps set new criteria for through to fruition. Southwest Airlines’ Figure One: The Three Gears of Design innovation. If you develop a deeper under- activity system has allowed it to become standing with a broader lens, you open one of the most innovative providers of con- yourself up to new possibilities. Witness sumer value in a highly-competitive athletic performance brands like Adidas industry, creating a sustainable competitive moving into the fashion arena, and iPOD’s advantage that other airlines have attempted redefinition of mobile entertainment. (in vain) to mimic. The next round is to build on those new For each of the three gears, there are insights and criteria to develop ‘outside the many tools and techniques that are used by dots’ concepts – exploring many new and great design teams, but the depth and even seemingly crazy ways to deliver bigger, rigour behind each gear cannot be compro- broader user value. The ‘design key’ in the mised. Moreover, it is never a clean and concept development process is to create linear pass-through process; it is extremely and consider a variety of ways to deliver iterative. It’s not about using a restrictive against your criteria through multiple-pro- set of rules – but instead creating the right totype exploration, with an open mind to conditions under which some core pillars feedback and reconfiguration along the way. (user – idea – business model) serve as the What most well-established companies With user feedback, you can continue to touch points throughout an iterative devel- do as a matter of practice is begin by exam- narrow your options and create the concept opment process. It is about liberating ining their ‘big gear’ – the existing business that is most distinctive and creates the most oneself and the team from the constraints model.This tried-and-true exercise focuses value for your user, perhaps tapping into a of early perfection and not being preoccu- largely on how to make the most of their need or opportunity that no one (including pied with getting it right too early, so that current capabilities and capacity – natu- the user) had even recognized or articu- you limit your possibilities. What compa- rally, as this is where their capital and lated: that’s breakthrough. The computer nies find when they practice iterative 26 • Rotman Magazine Spring/Summer 2006
  • 4. prototyping – be it a product concept or a 1. Life-Saving Packaging: immeasurable user value – from holding business model – is that they work their Target’s New Prescription Bottle pills to saving lives. ideas through earlier and faster, leveraging In 2004, insightful designer Deborah the experience and perspective of senior Adler [see coverage of her talk at Rotman 2. Operational Transformation: Boeing management – rather than waiting until all on page 87] set out to completely overhaul Fraught with operational issues and the of the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed to get the standard decades-old prescription bot- need to build a new manufacturing plant their approval. tle which created no end of problems with with an eye to improving the operational patient compliance and health risks due to and organizational challenges of its past, Design Principles Pay Off medication mistakes. With a deep under- Boeing and its architectural firm NBBJ When the conditions are ripe for innova- standing of who took medications and how, decided to put design thinking to work in tion and the general principles and she designed a remarkable new package to its broadest sense and create a ‘democratic’ methodology of design are put into play, it take the anxiety and risks out of medicat- workplace where blue-collar workers and is remarkable how big and broad the ing. Target Pharmacies embraced her white-collar engineers, sales, and corpo- impact can be. design and took on the challenge of work- rate people work side by side, with the Following are some wide-ranging ing to refine the concept into a viable product (Boeing 737) at the core. The new examples that demonstrate how ‘design reality. The U.S. Surgeon General wrote workplace, opened in 2004, was infused doing’ can deliver breakthrough results in that this may very well be the single biggest with the design message of collaboration any field, on every level. The methods breakthrough in prescription care in and the idea that every individual was behind these successes are reflective of the decades.This is a fantastic example of how important, with the focus on the product principles of design and showcase the wide- something ‘generic’ and functional can cre- rather than the process. Real and quantifi- spread impact of design in diverse fields. ate both competitive advantage and offer able improvements were noted: plane unit Introducing: the Rotman Business Design Initiative Karen Christensen: What is the Rotman exclusive nature, but represents an open HF: What are you hoping to achieve over Business Design Initiative? exchange of thinking that brings together the next five years? Heather Fraser: The Business Design Ini- complimentary areas of expertise in design KC: The overall goal is to develop a learning tiative is an important component of the and business.The collaboration has emerged stream for both the MBA program and research and development program of the out of a shared interest in fusing the best industry that will integrate the best prac- Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking. practices of design and business to foster tices from a wide range of design-related Whereas the broader notion of integrative innovation. The goal of this collaboration is disciplines. This will include the develop- thinking includes all aspects of the cogni- to link ‘design methodologies’ around ment of the following elements: tive development relating to holistic, human insight, physical invention and busi- • a working methodology for applying ‘connective’ thinking, the design initiative ness design in a way which will complete the design principles and practices to create specifically applies principles and practices innovation cycle, from inspiration through economic and human value, with outputs from the discipline of design to produce to the creation of a viable concept and sup- to include both research and learning tangible outputs and solutions. porting business model. Our first programs; collaboration, designworksTM, fuses the • a curriculum stream that will offer MBA KC: Talk a bit about the School’s partners learning of all three academic institutions students the opportunity to develop a on this initiative. into a working model for inspiring innova- deeper set of skills and methodologies HF: The relationship Rotman has with the tion across all functional disciplines. Our relating to ‘design doing’, culminating in Institute of Design at Stanford [headed up by pilot sponsor is Procter & Gamble, a a design major; IDEO founder David Kelley] and the Illi- leader in design thinking in industry. Beyond • a design module integrated into the Exec- nois Institute of Technology’s Institute of this workshop initiative, we have also shared utive MBA program; Design [headed by Patrick Whitney] is research interests relating to the impact of • a customized education program for cor- best described as a collaboration – a work- design methodologies on the innovation porations and industry at large which can ing relationship that is not one of a formal or process and cultural transformation. enhance the innovation capabilities and culture of a wide range of organizations. Rotman Magazine Spring/Summer 2006 • 27
  • 5. costs were decreased, resolution times 2. Build it into your corporate/organiza- inspiration in fueling corporate ‘brand’ cul- shortened, and the number of ‘flow days’ in tional strategy. Design is not just a ‘tactic’; tures like Clearnet (now Telus), Apple the factory for final assembly was reduced in order to succeed, it needs to be part of and Medtronic. Design thinking can by 50 per cent. Results demonstrate that your organizational strategy – from top to inspire in much the same way. you can improve operational effectiveness bottom, across all areas of expertise. Sam- by understanding your employees as cus- sung’s embrace of design at all 6. Feed it and reward it. Once all of the tomers and designing space for both organizational levels has allowed it to move above conditions are met and ‘design doing’ operational and cultural transformation. from a commodity producer to a brand is set in motion, the organization will make leader: in the U.S., it now regularly design a way of life and build its own 3. Communications Design: Viagra trounces Sony and Panasonic in sales. momentum. Much as design is part of an In 2001,Viagra held the leadership share in organization’s innovation strategy, it also its category.The challenge was that the mar- 3. Assign a leader, but don’t limit it to a needs to be part of an its cultural develop- ket was ‘contained’, for the simple reason function. Innovation through ‘design doing’ ment program and reward system in order that men were not consulting their doctors involves everyone. It is not just the ‘design to be validated. 3M’s strong ‘culture of about their condition. By understanding the department’ or the ‘innovation team’ or the innovation’ that rewards creativity at every holistic experience of the sufferer from the ‘marketing function’ – it should inspire and organizational level has made the company stage of ‘denial through to revival’, Pfizer impact every corner of the organization. a leader in delivering breakthrough solu- tions throughout much of its history. Design is not a one-shot vaccine; it’s an 7. The future starts today. While a sus- ‘innovation fitness program’ that puts an tained shift in culture takes time to gain traction, it is important to get started, organization on top of its game. think big about the future, and implement what you can today. implemented a program that connected to Teams need to be singing from the same In Closing and guided the sufferer through every stage song sheet. Claudia Kotchka’s appoint- Organizations can no longer count on qual- of their journey, using a multitude of chan- ment as head of design strategy at Procter ity, performance or price alone to sustain nels and tactics to empathetically transform & Gamble has served to inspire and institu- leadership in the global marketplace. Design a passive patient into an active patient. The tionalize design across the 100,000-strong has clearly emerged as a new competitive results – an unleashing of patient/doctor organization, making it one of the most weapon and key driver of innovation. Lever- dialogue and a surge in prescriptions – innovative and consumer-centric corpora- aging the power of design across all aspects demonstrate that these same principles can tions in the world. of a business can establish and sustain an also be applied to breakthrough market organization’s unique competitive advantage. development and communications planning. 4. Collaborate and internalize it. Don’t By consciously fostering the right kind hire someone to do it for you, collaborate of emotional environment and following Seven Steps to Successful Design-Doing with experts who will do it with you and the seven guidelines outlined here, your Following are some tips to consider upon inspire/teach you along the way. As with organization will be well equipped to trans- committing to ‘design’ as a means of dialing physical training, consider hiring a ‘design late inspiration into implementation. up innovation and increasing the odds of trainer’ or ‘coach’. Witness Monitor Uni- sustained success: versity, IDEO’s relationship with its Heather Fraser is director of Business Design Initiatives in the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking at the Rotman clients, and Rotman’s designworks™ ini- School. She is the creator of Rotman designworks™, a pilot 1. Make a long-term commitment. tiative [see sidebar for details]. program currently being tested in organizations that will Design is not a one-shot vaccine; it’s an become part of the Rotman curriculum in the near future. ‘innovation fitness program’ that puts an 5. Inspire, don’t legislate. It’s not about organization on top of its game. It is not an establishing a new set of rules. It’s about a ‘event’, it is a way of thinking, communicat- cultural shift toward fewer rules, deeper ing and doing every day. GE’s strong track values, and stronger principles. It’s a new record of investing in management practices way to think, not just about projects but the that push for continuous product and busi- way you work together day-to- day to solve ness model improvement have made this problems and create breakthrough oppor- organization an innovation behemoth. tunities. One only has to see the power of 28 • Rotman Magazine Spring/Summer 2006