I’ve just completed a major research project with leadership psychologist Edgar Papke. We’ve synthesized our findings in a new book, Innovation by Design. The cool thing is that it is about the benefits of design thinking at scale – we looked into the intersection of design thinking, innovation and corporate culture.
We went into our study focusing on organizations that are recognized using design thinking as a source of innovation and business performance. What we didn’t expect was the scale to which some of the companies and organizations were applying it. Here is a snapshot of the significant numbers of people that have been trained at a few leading companies:
- SAP has trained 20,000 employees
- IBM has trained 50,000 employees
- Intuit 10,000 employees (that’s is the entire company)
- Kaiser 15,000 people
- GE Healthcare 6,000
- Marriott 5,000
- Deutche Telekom 8,000
- Philips 5,000
- Visa 10 percent of their workforce.
These numbers tell a story in itself.
In some of the companies, design thinking was strategically seen as a function, a means through which to engage its membership on a larger scale. In others, we observed how design thinking spread, adding a belief in innovation and dramatically increasing its value. In some, it was approached from the top down, while in others it started as means to which to solve a particular problem in one part of the organization and people were naturally drawn to its qualities and wanted in on the game. In still others it was a part of human resource and organizational development strategies that were delivered through training and facilitation. What was consistent is that, regardless of how it was happening, how it was introduced, implemented, and integrated, people are drawn to participating in design thinking.
The big lesson is that any organization, of any size, can use design thinking as a means to influence culture and achieve greater levels of innovation. Regardless of size, the scaling through an organization, whether it is 10 people or 300,000, the more people know about how to engage in design thinking, the greater the level of innovation.
We also found that among our group of innovators, the scale of adoption and use varied, as did the manner in which they implemented and integrated it. Read a full chapter about this in our new book, Innovation by Design.