Design Thinking is a Useful Tool, But the Critical Organizational Perspective is Business Design

Design thinking is all the rage today as business leaders seek to leverage an important contemporary approach to analysis and design. Introduced in product and service development, the user-centric orientation of design thinking is highly valuable in developing an understanding of user contexts, pain points, and previously unidentified work practices. The user’s journey through an experience is also very useful.

However, in addition to its product/service orientation, design thinking tends to live “downstream” in the organizational value hierarchy. More fundamental enabling business elements, such as organizational capabilities (think knowledge creation and sharing) and program design (think talent), require a more expansive and robust approach that simultaneously examines business goals, business ecosystems, enabling technologies, and constituent perspectives — all in concert to define logical business relationships and to identify solution requirements that in turn inform organizational design, work design, and experience design.

This perspective is important more than ever as companies seek to develop digital organizational strategies and build essential “digital-first” organizational capabilities that will position them competitively in the future. In a much more complex environment of innovation, where human behavior is deeply commingled with technology, how does the organization function as discrete human activities and practices, and how do these elements come together predictably to serve strategic business goals?

I believe that part of the answer to the question above resides in a more systematic and rigorous evaluation and design of work practices, which are discrete, real events that emerge that the intersection of static work design and dynamic human behavior.