Smart business leaders have come to understand the power of Design Thinking to create differentiated experiences customers love. When coupled with a lean delivery process, Design Thinking can get the right solutions to market faster, establishing a sustainable competitive advantage. Even better is the recognition that Design Thinking is not the job of one team or one department, but an organization’s overall way of approaching and solving problems, from end to end.
As a result, Comrade and other firms that excel at Design Thinking are being asked to support company-wide transformation across the entire org chart. Our clients want us to help them become better, and Design Thinking is one way we do it.
So how do you learn Design Thinking? While books, online courses and toolkits can be helpful, the only way to really learn Design Thinking is by doing it, with support and coaching along the way.
If you’ve ever studied a musical instrument, you know that progress comes with practice. The same is true of Design Thinking—until you practice it, you can’t really learn it. You have to go through empathizing with your customers using real research as your foundation. You must walk with them through their journeys, and map those journeys to understand the pains, gains and opportunities. Learning to take those opportunities and problems and get at the underlying need or job to be done is a collaborative exercise that must be experienced to be understood, as is the process of coming up with possible solutions that will create value your customers will see, feel and promote to others. From there you need to be able to make that value tangible and test it to make sure it really does the job your customers need done. Finally, you need to bring the solution to market.
Learning an instrument means developing some fundamental skills, like scales, chords, timing and rhythm. Design Thinking also has fundamentals, like Personas, Empathy Maps, Journey Maps, Prototypes and Problem Statements. But, just as playing an instrument is about making music, not running through drills, Design Thinking is about solving problems, not generating deliverables or doing activities.
Here is one point where Design Thinking is very different from music. You can go a long way as a talented solo musician—but there is little value in, or demand for, solo design thinkers. This is why Comrade spends so much energy and focus on making sure Design Thinking projects have the right team of both comrades and client team members. We believe in the power of whole teams experiencing the process together—there are no bystanders.
So you’ve learned to play a few songs. You’ve put a group together. Maybe you’ve even played an event or two, and you’re feeling pretty confident. But…what if the horn player gets sick, and you need to bring in a session player? Or you get a request from the audience for something you haven’t played? Being successful at music requires flexibility and creativity, and Design Thinking is no different. Do a quick search online, and you’ll find an endless array of diagrams, process descriptions, tools, and methodologies that can all fit right into a Design Thinking process. There’s a lot of commonality out there to be sure, but it’s far from a one-size-fits-all world. After all, business problems don’t come in one flavor, and neither can problem-solving approaches.