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January 18, 2016

Design Thinking : Art Of Empowerment And Innovation

Posted by Pramod Prakash Panda (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:23 AM

Design Thinking helps discover the 'unknown-unknown' [Source:]

There's an urban legend surrounding one of the most respected business leaders of our time: Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric. The story of Welch begins when he was a newly-minted employee with GE. Fresh out of university with an engineering degree, he was asked where he saw himself in 20 years during his annual employee review. His answer: As Chairman and CEO of that company.
Having confidence in oneself is one thing. But Welch's answer took things to another level. The reason we still talk about that story today is that within 20 years or so of that employee review, he had indeed become GE's Chairman and CEO. What is it about certain business leaders that shows them a clear and unadulterated pathway to whatever or wherever it is they want to be? One of the reasons, I think, is the culture of the enterprise. If Welch's boss had laughed at him during that employee review, maybe things would have been different. But his supervisor, we're told, read his response and took Welch very seriously. GE had its eye on someone who aspired to greatness.
The success of a young, smart business associate with big aspirations starts with how he/she sees the world around him/her. One of my favorite leadership experts points to a construct in the education that most of us had that fundamentally hurts us as young leaders . We learn this construct from our bosses and professors and rather than questioning it, we propagate it. What I speak of is deductive and inductive logic. These are ancient frameworks that teach us to ask enough questions to test the veracity of issues and, by extension, to find out whether the problems facing us can be solved by conventional means. The problem with both deductive and inductive reasoning is that if the answers that we set forth cannot be answered within those frameworks, then we assume the problem before us cannot be solved. Frankly, that's a lousy way to face the host of problems you'll be up against as a business leader. What if we were not bound by formal constructs that force us to ask: Why? And we asked: Why not?
When you re-frame a problem, it's more likely that you will find new ways to answer it. These might not be the expected or orthodox ways of addressing the issue at hand. This is the fundamental concept that has inspired Design Thinking, in which asking the right questions to find the right problem is a necessary precursor to building a solution. To understand how Design Thinking works, consider the case of a mid-sized retailer that wanted to build a loyalty program to defend its business against large-format rivals. Deeper examination revealed that the real problem was not the absence of a loyalty program, but rather, the need to find a way to help a player of that size succeed amidst tough competition. That entirely changed the direction of the conversation. Customers were asked what bound them to the retailer, and not surprisingly they answered 'service'. But the real insight was that they defined service to include other business unrelated actions, such as the retailer's contribution to community welfare.  So when the loyalty program engine was built, it incorporated initiatives to help the retailer become more relevant to its community. This opened the door to new possibilities.
While Design Thinking fits in with every type of business or enterprise, it can also - and this is not so obvious - play  a similar role in helping people overcome their personal problems. An article on this subject describes how the author employed Design Thinking to 'get unstuck', which eventually helped her to deal with a weight problem that she had failed to solve the conventional way - by dieting. Introspection revealed that weight was not the core issue; there were larger ones like self-esteem and lack of energy at play. This understanding enabled her to make some new dietary changes, aimed at broader goals, which really started to pay off.
The lesson here is that when enterprises train their people to Design Think, they empower each individual to think beyond routine work and go after finding the right problems, then solve these hitherto unidentified problems for themselves and their customers, to co-build an outstanding work atmosphere which instills creative confidence in all and propels everybody with the appropriate thrust to become more innovative. And additionally, when enterprises create a core culture based on the platform of Design Thinking which focuses on desirability, promotes collaboration, rapid prototyping, iterative development and deployment while also recognizing all the people walking that path, they will undoubtedly also find that their employees are happier, more balanced and centered. What could be more important?

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