What is 'design thinking' and how can companies encourage it? | Coursera Community
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What is 'design thinking' and how can companies encourage it?

  • 26 August 2019
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I have been noticing that there is a great trend of design thinking nowadays. I wanted to know if I pursue Design Thinking, how will it benefit me in my career? Do the companies really encourage Design Thinking?

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@meghnapant These are really relevant questions! Some companies have definitely embraced it formally, hiring "design thinking" designers and user experience researchers, for example, and/or paying for employees to attend trainings and workshops on it. Design thinking is a form of human-centered design (HCD), also referred to as "participatory design methods," meaning methods that include the end user in some way. However, many companies find that it's a time consuming (and expensive) process to conduct in-depth investigations of user needs. And design thinking also requires a degree of freedom and safety to do well. Design thinkers need to be able to experiment, and some companies don't have cultures that allow people to try something, fail, and then try again in order to learn about what works best for users. So, it's larger companies who can generally afford to embrace it.

However, anyone can use the principles of HCD in a variety of contexts. I worked with a state agency that trained it's several hundred employees at all locations in HCD, using the Luma Institute method (design thinking is IDEO's brand of HCD), and then asked them to form teams to improve customer service and efficiency. The training, as well as the permission they were given to just try new things to see if they worked, led to some significant improvements. An experienced design thinker definitely stands out because the approach brings perspectives that others won't have considered by taking the extra step to work directly with users. And it often produces better results.

As a lone design thinker, one would need to be patient, persistent, comfortable leading by example, and good at making a strong case for new ideas and ways of working. All skills that are useful to a designer. Smaller organizations and startups can gain a real advantage by using participatory methods--to see what opportunities larger organizations may have missed by getting closer to the experience of people they want to serve. Design thinking, however, is just one tool among many. But I've found that it's an advantage to have as many tools as possible.

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