How Design Thinking Has Disrupted Markets

Consider for example the car. Now, it was Karl Benz who took out the patent for the internal combustion engine in 1879. But the automobile didn’t take and disrupt the transport market until 1908 when Henry Ford began producing the Model T. And it was the design of the Model T that built the market. Known as Tin Lizzie, the Model T was rolled out on an assembly line that required workers to turn the same bolt and the same wrench 5000 times a day. Parts were standardised from one Model T to another.

The engine was simple and efficient. All four cylinders were cast in a single block and the cylinder head was detachable for easy access and repair. Prior to then, the horseless carriage was for the rich. Assembly line produced cars were released at $1000 but eventually the price dropped down to $300, or $7000 in today’s money. And that transformed people’s lives.

Other examples include the Nest thermostat and of course Apple. The iPhone is a prime example of how design thinking disrupted the telephony market. Up until its release, the market had been dominated by Nokia and Motorola. The iPhone however was a prime example of design thinking where the designers were fully focused on what the users would be looking out for. So instead of a phone, it provided data, email and Internet access, something no phone had done before. When it was launched in 2007, the iPhone disrupted everything because it was not aimed at the telephony market.

Instead, it was a device that was used for data collection and emails, telephony was only a small part of the package. With design thinking, Apple seized 80 per cent of the market. Opportunities that no one knew existed were there for the taking.

Companies leading the way in design include Google, Virgin, Airbus, Amazon, Skype and Eurocopter. All of these are unique businesses that have disrupted and created new markets. They are showing the world that design creates tomorrow something that doesn’t exist today. For them, innovation is not about technology outputs but about input, encouraging new ideas within the organisation and team.

Recruiters and companies are now looking for a certain breed of leader. They not only want people who pursue business opportunities, they’re after the ones who know how to disrupt.

It’s a certain breed, people with perspective, who are responsive to need and demand and who know how to use the latest technologies. They are not only futurists and dreamers. They have a problem-solving ability. They know all about market intelligence, social intelligence, creative intelligence and design intelligence. The leaders of the future are the design intelligence strategists, the ultimate disruptors.

They are different from business administrators who develop strategy based on retrospective data, focusing on last year’s sale figures, customer feedback etc.

Instead, they are business opportunity specialists who use strategy based on foresight and forward trends to disrupt markets.

David Fastuca // Co-Founder of locomote.com