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What is design thinking? The secret to digital success

Clint Boulton | July 31, 2017
Design thinking is fast becoming a key pillar in digital transformations, as forward-thinking companies tap the human-centered design philosophy to deliver robust, user-friendly products and services.

Iteration: Corporate governance, which is linear-minded, tends to crimp innovation, which requires iterative approaches to product development. Organizations need to allow for the multiple, natural small failures associated with great or novel ideas, Pacone says. This requires sketching, storyboarding and prototyping solutions based on stakeholder feedback. “Really innovative solutions that have impact are the result of numerous innovation and a continuous flow of assumption testing and improvement. The faster time to market maxim is irrelevant in this day and age. Organizations that iterate the fastest and do it well will win.”

Project failure points: Identify areas that aren’t working and fix them. That’s one of the advantages of iteration; designers and engineers can fix bugs and user design quirks on a rolling basis, from inception of minimally viable products to fully-baked commercial solutions.

Collaboration: Organizations living under threat of disruption have to come up with good ideas and collaborate with other departments and with clients to get them implemented. They must also help to impart ways of working that are more visually imaginative and creative.

Pacione says the impetus for driving design-thinking into an organization tends to come from organizations looking to improve customer experiences. “The impetus is on the outside because it’s affecting bottom and top-lines sooner,” Pacione says.

But you don’t have to have all the design thinking answers yourself. TD Ameritrade’s Sankaran, for example, has tapped coaches and consultants, such as Pivotal Labs, to help teach both IT and business line product managers how to build software with the end user in mind. “They ask open ended questions, such as, ‘Okay, what would a client want to do with this and how would they interact with it?”

When companies see the payoffs they tend to bring those philosophies to bear internally on corporate solutions. Increasingly, enterprise don’t have a choice in the matter. Millennial employees, which already comprise more than half the workforce, will pass on employers whose technologies and practices they view as part of the digital Dark Ages.

Avoiding the digital Dark Ages is crucial. One way corporations can do this is create a “design culture” that involves hiring more designers and prototyping new solutions they wish to launch early and often. Setting up innovation labs and digital accelerators also helps. “They see the pressure of the liquid expectations both in delivering their services and in keeping their organization growing and thriving,” Evenson says.


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