This post is based on an analysis of some of the most extensive and advanced use design thinking on the planet. My research partner Edgar Papke and I reached out to a select group of organizations and looked under their hoods – to understand to what level they were using design thinking, how they were implementing it, and what impact the adoption of design thinking was having on their corporate cultures. The increasing rate of how companies were adopting the use of design thinking led us to identify a correlation between the use of design thinking and their level of innovation.
We had in-depth interviews with 3M, AMP, Autodesk, Deutsche Telecom, GE, IBM, Intuit, Kaiser, Lego, Marriott, Philips, SAP, Visa, Wells Fargo, The Hunger Project, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Frog, Ideo and the #1 ranked restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park, among others. We conducted over 70 interviews with members of the sample organizations such as CEOs, business executives, Chief Design Officers, HR and OD leaders, design thinking experts, and researched published examples of how each uses design thinking.
At our broader level of inquiry, among a host of questions our research and interviews included analysis into how these organizations apply design thinking to:
– The influence of design thinking at scale on the organization’s culture
– The creation of new products, services and experiences
– The design organization processes, systems, and structures
– The creation and leadership of long-term strategy to distributed innovation
– The functioning of teams, decision-making and conflict resolution
– The design of collaborative environments
– The use of external design thinking experts and consultants
– The training and development of employees in design thinking
In our synthesis, we identified a set of ten attributes that give remarkable power to the human-centered aspects of design thinking in these organizations. The context for the ten attributes is an organization’s culture, which provides the means through which each attribute becomes an ingredient in the recipe for the successful pursuit of innovation. What brings this all to life and makes it all happen is the collective imagination of employees and the energy created by human motivation. A key finding is the motivation and drive of people to come together and participate in the pursuit of knowledge and the open sharing of ideas, that results in the creative and critical thinking that feeds innovation.
We also found that design thinking organizations have a way of multiplying creativity. In the right context, there is a multiplying effect that design thinking has on the breadth and level of employee participation. And it not only results in greater numbers of people wanting to participate, it also multiplies and accelerates creativity, and the quantity and quality of ideas and potential solutions to problems. The more organizations make design thinking available, the more people are drawn to participate and the greater the level of innovation possible. This is very different from how organizations typically push or try to mandate innovation. The ah-ha is that design thinking is an accelerator of participation in innovation and change, by tapping into basic human motivation.
Read a full chapter about this in my new book with Edgar Papke, Innovation by Design.