If you are reading this, you probably have a knack for healthy businesses, as design thinking has practically become a must for building a healthy company culture. That’s because, whenever design principles are implemented strategically, the success rate for innovation improves dramatically.

Just as the market has shifted from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach, the design methodology is currently transforming the way companies produce value. And, when it comes to business culture, design thinking becomes the driver for major organizational changes in the road to success.

Design that Thinks

What is Design Thinking, anyway? You can call it an approach, a mindset, a strategy. In any case, the goal is the same: understanding something from multiple human-centered angles. I am talking about psychological, emotional, and behavioral factors. These are the “pivot points” from which people will be able to drive innovation.

How? Well, by setting a collaborative environment that revolves around the customer’s needs and a problem-solving mentality. Here are the 6 key steps to Design Thinking in a nutshell:

  • Empathize: Stop, listen, and understand.
  • Identify: Define the problem clearly.
  • Think: Use different techniques to generate ideas.
  • Prototype: Put together a first solution draft.
  • Test: Check if it works.
  • Deliver: Implement the final product.

Yes, these steps might have been initially devised under a client-centric approach—but we mustn’t forget that employees are a business’s internal clients. They are the first brand consumers and they are the very people in charge of making everything work. In fact, Design Thinking is a terrific way to incentivize leadership and improve the “customer experience” within the workplace.

People = Learners = Creators

In my experience, Design thinking brings productivity to a whole new level in which it not only increases, but also manifests itself in peculiar ways. The secret: rewarding innovation. This means empowering people to experiment outside established processes, encouraging their creativity to find new solutions that bring value to the company.

However, innovation always comes along with risks and failures, and business culture should also embrace that. Results are as important as the way people feel about driving their own projects. When things don’t go as planned, adopting a “What could we do to improve?” mentality will keep people’s motivation up and prevent them from becoming risk-averse.

Driving Culture Adoption

Making innovation part of everyone’s daily activities is not an easy feat. Every team has creative muscles that need both exercise and motivation. As leaders, there are several things we can do to invite people into Design Thinking:

  • Leading by Example: The commitment of the executive team will determine how every team member embraces Design Thinking. Every team leader needs to incorporate Design Thinking into their daily routine before they encourage other people to do the same.
  • Innovation Infrastructure: Once we get people on board, we need to make sure they have all the tools to achieve innovation. In other words, we need to set aside resources, spaces, budget, and even roles exclusively dedicated to innovation.
  • Build Uniqueness: Every business has a long series of characteristics that make it unique, from their workflow and their values to their people. Effective Design Thinking is built upon these qualities, which give a familiar feel and facilitate adoption.
  • Supportive Mindset: Transformation requires new ideas, and new ideas require people that support them. Managing risks is a lot healthier than avoiding them. This goes in all directions and applies to all work relationships.

Thinker Beware

Design Thinking is an exciting field with lots of benefits, which is exactly why there are still some aspects that need some careful handling. Here’s a quick list of some common mistakes everyone should avoid:

  • Excessive micromanagement: it is easy to dedicate a lot of time and resources to a single stage of Design Thinking. While you might be getting excellent results for that specific step, it still means that the others are being left behind. Design Thinking runs best under a holistic approach.
  • Doing everything by the book: Flexibility and customization are at the core of the Design Thinking mentality. You can learn a lot from a manual and it is inspiring to hear how others did it, but this approach can only truly work for your business if you dare to step outside of the grid and start pursuing change.
  • Lack of integration: United we stand, divided we fall. Every person and department in the company is a building block of design thinking. To get the maximum effect, everything that has been mentioned before should apply company-wide.

Final Words

Design Thinking is not just another process to add to a company policy handbook. It is a far-reaching mindset that’s only successful when people get on board and support each other. Ultimately, it will shape the way people approach every aspect of the business.

So inspire exploration and celebrate experimentation. Let everyone know they are free to think big and aim further than you would ever expect to get.