Strategic Design — make room for thinking

Helsinki Design Lab — What is Strategic Design?

So I think this has to be one of my favourite resources for simplifying what this whole design innovation thing is about — I felt this way about it when we were directed to it an earlier subject with Gill Wildman. It seemed to encapsulate a whole lot of reading and thinking we’d been doing to this point…

I love the way this video shows how the design process can be harnessed upstream for better value outcomes, and the how the application of design thinking and capabilities early on, can ensure the right problems are being solved, and that the company is committing the right resources to them.

When I reflect on this material, I think about an organisation who I’ve heard has recently moved away from the position that HDL are promoting. Instead of making room for thinking, they’re focusing on faster, more efficient delivery, and locking design into production, understanding the value to be limited to outputs from tools like Sketch or Axure.

And it gives me cause for wondering;

  • How well is design thinking and design strategy understood by senior decision makers?
  • And if they do understand it, where and how do they see it fitting to delivery methods such as agile? I guess I’m wondering if some companies mistake efficient delivery for strategic thinking?
  • Is there enough appreciation of the power that customer insights can provide re: the why?
  • In crowded, highly competitive market places, is the risk too great to try this approach? Do you just fall back on what worked for you last time?
  • And what space is left for qualitative researchers in companies who have a high commitment to data and analytics — what’s the size of the battle there?

And then I got to thinking, if you only have known one way to win, I guess you revert to it? It takes a lot to convince people to learn and trust a new way of thinking and learning.

How do you go about making a company more customer centric and supportive of design thinking when they’re facing more risk than they’ve seen in a long time?

Doing new things definitely takes courage, and keeping pace with innovation is tough and time consuming — but the outcome and satisfaction seems worth it —I mean jeez, InVision have made a film about it — Design Disruptors

So I guess as we move further into collaborative readings, we’re hopefully going to learn about the glue you need to cook up to spread around to assist this change to take place. This soft human stuff around change and change making, and how you shift the dark-matter to your own end seems as important as being excellent at the design practice.

And in the face of the questions above, here are some things I do know:

  • It takes a heck of a lot of time to keep yourself up to date and in front of the pack, so don’t expect the average manager or executive to get it. You’ll need to figure out a way to teach them, talk to it and help them see the value.
  • To win, you need a team you can trust, and to be trusted. A team who have different specialisms who can contribute, and collaborative for the best decision making to occur.
  • You need to create room for thinking, and probably hire some emerging design professions to help you do this if you’re not sure about how.
  • You need to find out what the real problem is — talk the customer, use insights to drive strategy, and mixed methods to get the whole story.
  • Continuing designing with and for the customer throughout the entire solution.
  • Solving the right problem will always trump speed alone… even Einstein said so…
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein