Design Thinking: how to solve complex business problems using the power of design

Often businesses are seduced into thinking that everybody is in alignment only to realise that everybody is holding a slightly different image of the situation and the solution in their heads. This is where an understanding of design thinking can help.

Design Thinking: how to solve complex business problems using the power of design

Andy Budd

Company Chairman and Co-Founder

All too often businesses are seduced into thinking that everybody is in alignment only to realise that everybody is holding a slightly different image of the situation and the solution in their heads. Such a lack of alignment makes solving problems, making successful products, having a competitive advantage or just doing one's best work very tricksy. This is where an understanding of design thinking, and the skills and techniques therein, can help.

The term “design thinking” has been floating around the industry since the 60s, but it was arguably IDEO’s Tim Brown who helped bring it into the public consciousness in his 2009 TED Talk. Since then, Design Thinking has been gaining popularity in the business world, thanks to prominent articles in publications like Fast Company and The Harvard Business Review. In fact Design Thinking has become so popular that many business leaders have been eschewing traditional MBAs in favour of design led programmes at The Singularity University and dSchool.

The concept behind Design Thinking itself is fairly straightforward; essentially it’s using traditional design tools and approaches to solve non-traditional—often abstract–business problems. This typically involves a combination of abductive reasoning, visual sense making, modelling, co-design, and experimentation, all through the lens of user centricity. As such, the magic of design thinking is using these tools in new and unexpected ways.

Considering all the buzz, you’ll be surprised to know that the very existence of Design Thinking is still contested, with some designers feeling there is an element of “emperor's new clothes” about the whole conversation. They would argue that design thinking is nothing new and designers have always used their tools to solve complex business problems, so this isn’t some new form of cognition. Irrespective of the ongoing debate, Design Thinking has clearly made its way outside the design studio and into the boardroom, giving designers an unprecedented level of access and influence.

We’ll start this workshop by introducing the concept of design thinking, and digging into some of the key details. We’ll talk about the double-diamond approach to design—something you’ll no doubt already be aware of and if not, you will be at the end of this—and how this can be applied to a broader set of problems than you’re familiar with. We’ll walk you through a set of our favourite Design Thinking tools, before splitting you into groups of 4-6 people and tasking you with solving a tricky business problem.