“Design thinking” for everyone

»The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and

insights into products and services that will improve lives.« (Tim Brown, 2009).

There is no unified terminology when talking about design these days. Design is used as a noun or verb, a one-time activity or a long process that combines creativity and innovation into added value that can be resulted in the aesthetics or form of product, service, or experience. Recently, design role has changed. Instead on placing emphasis on aesthetics and form, design replaces the way of thinking, which by its nature leads to innovation (Martin 2009). Over the last few years the concept of design thinking came to the forefront in business world. Brown (2009) summarized it as follows: design thinking is a discipline that uses the sensitivity of designers and their methods of research of human needs that are technologically feasible, commercially viable that by strategy with the help of users’ research creates new market opportunities. Design discipline in modern innovation processes is getting more important part as it had before. Different research findings have shown that companies which were more user oriented by involving design into organization were more innovative than the others, which means also more competitive (Utterback et al, 2006; Verganti 2009). In a way, design is a strategic tool for creation of user-driven innovation. Designers’ multidisciplinary problem-solving method approach allows users’ needs and their aspirations being a part of front-end innovation process. This part of the innovation process some scholars call “design space” (Baldwin 2006). OECD in guideline publications clearly indicate that design discipline is closely associated with research, development and innovation. Oslo Manual goes a little further and includes design discipline as an important part of innovation (Oslo Manual 2005).

In case of design thinking the role of design discipline is not about making aesthetical and functional parts of products, but design means a way of thinking, a tool that leads to innovation processes (Bevan et al. 2007). Martin (2006) says that innovation through new thinking, design thinking, enables companies to develop long term vision on how to deliver added value to all its stakeholders. Users’ examination creates new knowledge which companies through innovation can better meet market needs by offering user-oriented innovations (Nussbaum, 2004).  Design thinking principles are defined: “as combination of the following intra-organizational aspects: human, technology and business model aspect” (Brown 2008, p.88).

In some studies (Mohrman 2007) design thinking is a part of organizational design theory. In last decade the design thinking philosophy is supported by organizational development theory, which is closely related to the mode of thinking as a focus of business. Organizational development as bridging the gap between theory and practice, design thinking is the right solution for thorny business problems, where focus on humanistic side of creating new values for all stakeholders (Mohrman 2007). For small and medium-sized enterprises is crucial to focus on design thinking principles as key organizational factors how to reorganize working atmosphere for innovative solutions, because there are usually less resources for organizing research and development departments. Some companies have developed special policies that constitute a kind of intersection between the analytical and intuitive thinking (Martin, 2006). According to Brown (2009) design thinking philosophy uses a designer’s sensibility and specific ethnographic and anthropological research methods to link human needs with what is technologically feasible and what can sustainable business model convert into value for end users.

Source: Nagy 2011.