Notes On Implementing Design Thinking In Enterprises

6 min read

Dear designers. Are you in distress because you are unable to implement design thinking in enterprises?

If you are still touting that design is the solution for everything. You are seeing every problem as a nail to hammer.

If you keep telling teams that they need to implement design thinking. You are turning design into a repellent that no one wants to hear.

If you are still facilitating 1-2 day design thinking workshops. You're diluting the value of design and what it can truly do for you.

If you try to differentiate between design thinking, service design, UX design, strategic design, (insert design jargon), and you even try to explain it to others. Your non-designer team members don't really care at all.

If you believe every project should start with research because design thinking process states so and you don't believe that your team has not empathized with their customers. You are not practicing human-centered design to your teams.

If you only look at beautiful artefacts as evidences to design being practiced in the company. You're just shallow.

Stop! You're doing design practice a disservice.

The last thing you want is to talk about design thinking, or differentiating between jargons, or pushing to facilitate design thinking workshops, or being biased towards beautiful artefacts.

The true value of design is not in aesthetics, nor in products or even experiences. Above all, the true value of design is in designing systems. Therefore systems thinking is the new design thinking.

Healthcare system. A city is a system. Government is a system. A business is a system.

This means design needs to be applied at systemic level. Not only applied at experiential, utility or communication levels.

What does it mean when design is applied at systemic level in the enterprise?

1. It means design is used to lead front-end innovation and support at the back-end operations.

Innovate, yes. But also make sure it gets materialized as you envisioned, not just concept design or simply an innovation theater.

How will the scheduling work at the back-end? What happens if users successfully made the report - will there be rewards?

2. It means design has to impact how cross-functional teams operate and co-create with other functions.

The user experience is delivered not only through the product or service, but by teams from different functions. Therefore cross-functional team alignment is crucial to ensure the user experience is seamless.

Alignment can be achieved when teams are co-creating with each other. Usually this is done in co-creation workshops. But it's time to move beyond one-off workshops then revert to business-as-usual the next day.

3. It means design shifts from being visible artefacts to become invisible support system.

Communicate the roles of each function to deliver the user experience. Then continuously co-create with one another to ensure delivery.

Marketing: What's the sign up journey like? When should email triggers be sent to users and what to say?

Support: How should users be onboarded? What levels of support can be provided based on various scenarios?

Sales: What can be bundled together as a deal? When should upsell, cross-sell and down-sell be activated in the user experience?

4. It means that you, as a designer, should execute the design process without telling your team members know what you're actually doing.

Ditch "design thinking" word out of the vocabulary. Don't ever say. Just do it. See the results. Your team members won't know what box to put you in because you're "out of the box".

User empathy. Don't declare that you're going to initiate a full-blown ethnography research. Just get it done at miniscule level. Get some research data and actionable insights to show your superiors and prove that ethnographic research works. This buys trust. Trust buys you bigger research initiatives.

Visualization. Use your visualization skills to align teams to move into the same direction. Aligning is leading by the way.

Prototype. Instead of attending meetings and participate in endless discussions. Facilitate it. Turn it into a review session. Use something visual like a schema and/or tangible like a prototype to have a fruitful outcome.

These are 4 interventions you can take home today and apply tomorrow at your workplace. It has worked for me, and it will work for you too.