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Re-thinking design thinking

The world is changing at a pace we’ve not witnessed since the industrial revolution, but with the added uncertainty of Brexit and global political turmoil, the future has never been less predictable, particularly for businesses that are so exposed to outside influence. But with challenge emanates great opportunity, and with advancements in design, technology and even ‘contentious’ artificial intelligence, the workplace of the future is primed for disruption from within.

So what do organisations need to do to future-proof themselves against these outside socio-political, economic and sometimes geographical challenges? How can workplaces remain diverse in the face of a world battling for equality and sense of place? Where will workers fare as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning become more and more sophisticated? And finally – the burning question, can organisations stay ahead of competitors without innovation?

The Design Rule of 3

The fact is, design thinking only has value when combined with design doing and supported by a strong design culture. You can’t be good at only one or two. The Design Rule of 3 constitutes the three fundamental rules that underpin every successful design system employed by leading organizations, across sectors. When optimized and deployed in unison, organizations can effectively unlock the full potential of design to transform not only their own value and performance but peoples’ experiences of the products or services they provide.

Fjords design rule of 3

Design Thinking Reconsidered

Design thinking should bring a quest for truth, empathy with people, and a systematic reframing of the business challenge – zooming in and out of the opportunity space, and providing a strategic compass to help executives understand how to reorient their businesses.

Co-creation has to be integral. An organization must be willing and able to break down organizational silos to enable it. Fundamentally, design thinking must align a design perspective with business realities and technical possibilities.

Design your way to success

Design thinking is not a new concept. In fact many of you may have already heard of it and even be using it within your business proposition. But what if I were to tell you that that while design thinking is great, it risks disappearing into the ether without the backing of ‘design doing’ and ‘design culture’.

Design thinking is when a group of innovative designers get together to problem-solve an issue within an organisation. Going one step further – design doing – is then about taking this solution-focused design thinking and collaborating with different stakeholders to actually create new services.

This brings me to the third, final and probably most important part of the design triangle – design culture. To truly embed design culture within an organisation you need to engage the hearts and minds of the back office too. It’s not the designers you need to convince of the effectiveness of design thinking – they’re game – but HR, legal and even accounting. Without their buy-in your organisation will not shift away from a sterile, conventional office environment and design thinking will be rendered useless. But if design forms part of a company culture, an organisation can incentivise and innovate from all departments.

Companies need to stop thinking that design culture is reserved solely for the tech world. Good design can transcend the overall business world and must not, above all else, become a fad.

Why Design Culture is All

Design culture is equally important as design thinking and design doing because it enables the others. Creating a design culture is no trivial undertaking. It requires organizational commitment and patience. This is where most organizations stumble. Brilliant people will fail if the environment in which they work doesn’t foster creativity, collaboration and innovation.

Fostering a Design Culture:

  1. Diverse teams including change agents
  2. Learning & evolution of individuals
  3. Flexible physical spaces

Given that great ideas emerge from diverse teams, change agents should be recruited as ambassadors and implementers of cultural transformation. Care must be taken to ensure they are set up for success.

Money alone will no longer secure the best designers. People want environments in which they are challenged, continuously learn and make impact. Flexible and open workspace is important to facilitate the best design work; and visual representations of ideas and their impact are a powerful tool. Design and innovation requires full mind and body engagement.

Bottom line – mindset matters. Acquiring design thinking methods is a great first step, but must be followed through with changing how products and services are conceived and delivered, every day in every way. Effecting that transformation means simultaneously creating the right culture. Good intentions can only become reality if underpinned by a considered, effective design system built on solid foundations: The Design Rule of 3.

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