Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mark Dziersk on Design Thinking

Design in its most effective form is a process, an action, a verb, not a noun. A protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. Techniques and tools differ, and their effectiveness is arguable, but the core of the process stays the same. It has taken years of slogging through 'design = high style' to bring us full circle to the simple truth about design thinking: that when used effectively, it can be the foundation for driving a brand or business forward. [article]

My favorite part:
[Design is a] protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. 
When friends or acquaintances ask, I usually try to explain that at work, I "solve problems" to improve and optimize existing products and offerings which is somewhat self-evident as a competitive asset. However, the second portion about "discovering new opportunities" is at least as exciting and important in my role. 

As mentioned in a Harvard Business Review article "Design Thinking":
Historically, design has been treated as a downstream step in the development process--the point where designers, who have played no earlier role in the substantive work of innovation, come along and put a beautiful wrapper around the idea. 
Now, however, rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers' needs and desires. The former role is tactical, and results in limited value creation; the latter is strategic, and leads to dramatic new forms of revenue.
Whether it's re-understanding a problem we thought we understood or recognizing an opportunity that had been overlooked, I try to convey that I work both in this innovation space as well as in the more stereotypical downstream problem solving spaces. Being able to deliver on multiple levels is part of what makes the work so fun and satisfying.

As Mark said:
The simple truth about design thinking: when used effectively, it can be the foundation for driving a brand or a business forward.


Peter Thomson said...

Eric, great blog and great post. It is always a little hard to describe to friends who haven't been exposed to design thinking exactly what it is that we do.

I've found that something about end-users, creativity and empathy is usually a pretty good start. What's your elevator pitch when your have to explain design at a party?

Eric said...

Hello Peter, thanks for stopping by. Your blog is interesting and I've subscribed. It certainly is a little difficult to describe what it is that we do to friends.

So far, my elevator pitch has been evolving via iteration, as I'm sure yours is as well. One thing I noticed is that, as in design, context is very key - I try to tailor the explanation based on who is receiving it.

If it's to my typical friend or an aunt or uncle for example, I tend to stick to or start with consumer-level impact I hope to have an effect on. I'll try to make a dialogue up on the fly here:

"Have you ever used something you thought was stupid? That you hated? That you didn't get?"

Usually, they say yes and might elaborate. Everyone can remember frustration quite well ;-)

"Right. So if I can avoid that for my employer, I'll have done my job. Now, think of a time you used something you loved so much that it made you happy and you told your friends about it.

If I can accomplish that for my employer, I'll have done my job pretty well."

Of course my bottom line when all else fails is: "If people use it or it involves people, I can make it better."

It sounds pretentious but I think there are two key words not to be overlooked: "people" and "better"

1. I rely on empathy and understanding of people to power the inspiration from which to innovate from. (I'm not some kind of creative genius. I learn by thinking and feeling.)

2. I don't claim to make perfect things, only that I believe I can continuously make things better. (I don't pump out perfection the first time, every time. I iterate furiously and work hard to solve problems.)

Enough blabbering from me. What's your elevator pitch? How many different types of audiences do you tend to pitch to? Maybe your work is different than mine?