In today’s day and age where entrepreneurship is the new normal, innovation cannot be avoided at any costs. A buzzword as it is, ‘innovation’ requires no rocket-science but a strategic approach that brings out the desired solutions to all worldly problems. By taking a design thinking route, you can build an innovation culture to help you create wonders. 

Why is innovation such a buzzword in the entrepreneurship world? Because in today’s cut-throat competitive landscape, it is not easy to survive without offering some kind of newness to the customers. And more than newness, it is the ever-changing needs of the customers that demands an innovation that offers value to the customers. That’s why many organisations are adopting innovation culture to take their entrepreneurship ventures to the next level. 

At the heart of any innovative creation is the value that it adds to its end customer. This is where design thinking can be helpful in building an innovation culture. Design thinking is a strategic approach to problem-solving with an intention to create customer-centric solutions. In this article, we shall tell you five sure-fire ways to build an innovation culture using design thinking in your business. 

“If we want businesses to be successful at their maximum potential, we have to co-design society scale systems that cultivate widespread business success.”

― Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr, CEO of Mayflower-Plymouth

Building an Innovation Culture: Five Ways Design Thinking is the Future of Innovation

5 ways design thinking is the future of innovation culture

The concept of design thinking is human-centric in the sense that it is based on understanding consumers’ needs, which can further give you pointers to develop services/products in a way that can give you a solid base to achieve success. The principles of design thinking bring together what is desirable by the audience with what is technologically achievable and economically efficient. To create a culture of innovation, one can use five phases of design thinking – empathy, define, ideate, prototype and test. 

Let’s dig deeper into five revolutionary ways how design thinking promotes innovation culture: 

  • Design Thinking is Customer-Centric

In a true innovation culture, people consider human values as a crucial aspect of innovation. Empathy with your user serves as the greatest recipe for transformation. For instance, Amazon.com, a multinational technology company that doesn’t even need an introduction, has millions of direct competitors in the market yet it manages to stand out. What gives Amazon an edge over other competitors? The answer is: providing an unmatchable user experience.

The principle of design thinking revolves around understanding how we can come up with solutions that can give outstanding experience to the customer, just like Amazon does with each of its innovations. By adapting such a methodology across your organisation, you can create an innovation culture and allow your organisation to grow tremendously. 

  • Design Thinking Promotes a Culture of Collaboration

Collaboration is not naturally fostered in contemporary work environments. Modern workplaces have old hierarchical systems that don’t promote teamwork. However, in today’s time when innovation is an integral part of any business, organisations need more collaboration, creativity, adaptability, and critical thinking abilities. 

The principles of design thinking encourage open collaboration. Collaboration gives space to employees with different viewpoints to give their opinions and help the organisation bring better solutions. For instance, people from a variety of disciplines (designers, engineers, human resources, finance, marketing, etc.) are brought together to solve challenges through design thinking. This therefore lays the groundwork for a change in organisational culture in favour of one that values and promotes collaboration. With different perspectives of varied minds, one can break down the problems more easily and find effective solutions. 

For many professionals , changing to a mindset that fosters these attributes might be difficult because it calls for giving up a competitive perspective and adopting a collaborative and innovation culture. Additionally, it demands a change in perspective from extracting value from well-known, current processes to considering how to create new value. However, this difficulty must not prevent your organisation from embracing an innovation culture, as it’s not much of a choice any more!

  • Design Thinking Promotes Ideation

The same old, hierarchical mindset that hinders collaboration can also stifle creative thoughts. It can divide the workday into a set of activities with a set of rigid restrictions, preventing people from contributing their own creative ideas.

One of the fundamental principles of design thinking is divergent thinking, which is utilised to produce original ideas by considering a variety of potential solutions. Design thinking allows businesses to create a culture of innovation by keeping themselves aloof from the typical bureaucratic and political restrictions. It does so by creating spaces for creative thinking and brainstorming as well as by utilising rituals that facilitate broad thinking. Design thinking supports ideation in two ways:

  • By encouraging risk taking and viewing failure as a necessary component of learning to find the ideal solution. This motivates people and groups to think about new ideas and step outside of their comfort zones.
  • By allowing people to ask questions with humility, curiosity, and an openness to all possible solutions. 
  • Design Thinking Embraces Failures

There aren’t enough policies, practices, or structures in place in contemporary workplaces and systems to support and even reward failure. Organisations are more concerned with efficiencies, established processes, and a competitive culture that views failure at work as failure overall. Failure could be a useful instrument for learning that enables a business to change course and improve along the route to success.

Design thinking views failure as an essential stage in the search of knowledge and risk mitigation. Redefining failure across your organisational culture can help you create a culture of innovation. 

For instance, a design-led business can lessen the risk of launching a new product by developing and testing imperfect, less expensive prototype versions of several concepts with users. This method of continuous prototyping has been used by IBM as part of a system known as “The Loop,” which has come to represent their design-driven mindset.

Failures can be reframed as chances—even prerequisites—for learning and iterative growth when a company works to create an organisational culture that encourages individuals to take risks. Design Thinking-led feedback has helped many businesses make major pivots, which have helped them decide which products to develop, market, and improve. This should be across the organisational structure, that’s how you can foster an innovation culture with each innovation. 

  • Design Thinking Welcomes Unbiased Opinions 

In an organisation where each employee just blindly follows the bosses, unbiased, unabashed opinions are not generally welcomed. In such organisations, employees are unwilling to put forward their opinions because no one really asks for it, and that’s where organisations are losing out. 

While creating an innovative solution, it is very important to accept criticism. While design thinking embraces failures, it also embraces unbiased opinions. The fourth stage of design thinking is more focused towards creating prototypes that need to be developed and tested among the target audience to come to a certain conclusion. In this stage, customers are welcomed to give their views on the prototype. During the testing stage, it is likely that the prototype might receive negative comments from the customers. And it is okay if they do so because that’s how your final product will be an effective solution. 

Openly listening to your customers or even your own employees helps you create wonders. By adapting this small change in the organisational structure, you not only will be able to deliver effective solutions but also create a more inclusive workplace for your employees. 

Creating a Culture of Innovation with Design Thinking: The Bottom Line

Design Thinking works best when tackling issues where several realms converge, such as business and society, reason and intuition, logic and creativity, human needs and market demands, and systems. Creating a paradigm shift in the mindsets and striking the right conversations with the team can help companies and organisations foster successful innovation culture. 

About the author

Anuradha is a passionate Design Thinking practitioner with 10+ years of industry experience. She has dived into the field of Design and Design Thinking, where she is trained to design experiences. She is the Founding Partner and Design lead at Humane Design and Innovation (HDI) Consulting. Her professional career spans across various roles in Advisory, UX Design, Service Design, Engineering Design, Design integration and Training. She was the lead designer of the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG. She has designed multiple digital experiences by conducting strategic UX workshops and design experiences that add functional and emotional value. To her friends & peers, she is the Bonding Agent of the team and always a Go to person. She is an avid reader, blogger & a painting enthusiast.

We at Humane Design strongly believe in the human ethos and draw inspiration from humans and other elements of nature to design innovative solutions for organizations of all sizes. We will be glad to be your success partner. Email us your requirements at explore@humaned.in.

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