About Design Thinking, a fundamental tenet: Design matters!

Mala Manku, October 2020

The University of Texas at Austin, School of Design and Creative Technologies adheres to a fundamental tenet: Design matters! The same should be true for any organization or company, whether they offer physical and/or digital products, services or a collection of solutions for the many challenges and needs people have. Design is a creative, people-first approach to solving complex problems and has always been best suited to help solve human-centered problems that require dealing with different people, needs, circumstances, or environments.

In their 2018 report, The business value of Design, McKinsey & Company discusses how the potential for design-driven growth is enormous in both product and service-based sectors. Today more than ever, people and organizations are facing challenges that are putting conventional wisdom to the test. Leaders and their teams find themselves in need of developing and adopting creative, innovative solutions as the ultimate path to stay relevant while improving organizational effectiveness and impact. Similarly, organizations dedicated to lead in critical areas of society, like healthcare and education, are expected to put forward impactful solutions while addressing existing inequities.

The Design Value Index (DVI), based on a portfolio of 16 publicly traded stocks from companies considered to be 'design-centric' contingent on a set of criteria that reflects best practices in design management, shows a 211% return over the S&P 500.

Design Management Institute’s 2015 Design Value Index (DVI)

One of the key areas for companies and organizations to tap into their innovative potential is to expand and upskill their cross-functional talent and making user-centric design everyone’s responsibility. Organizations advance this practice by nurturing and investing in high-impact learning experiences that disseminate a foundational understanding of design thinking among its cross-functional team members.

When it comes to crafting and adopting innovative solutions, leaders and managers struggle with the following counterintuitive uncertainties:

  • How could you make informed decisions on innovations for which traditional data sets does not exist yet?
  • What concrete evidence could inform your decision making for the feasibility and viability of innovative solutions?
  • How could you address the gap in understanding at the top of your organization when it comes to learning, understanding, and acting on what most frustrates and excites your customers?

In the article Why Design Thinking Works, published by HBR, they explain that “design thinking (as a social technology), has the potential to do for innovation exactly what TQM did for manufacturing: unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.”

The structure of design thinking offers an iterative process that captures customers’ insights to inform the design criteria that inspire ideas for feasible solutions. The process also incorporate the use of rapid prototyping and testing to examine and probe assumptions about what’s critical for those solutions to successfully address people’s needs and further develop viable innovations.

By involving customers and other stakeholders in the definition of the problem and the development of solutions, design thinking… supplies a structure to the innovation process… that helps innovators collaborate and agree on what is essential to the outcome at every phase.

Why Design Thinking Works, Harvard Business Review, 2018

Find out more about Cavendish Group's partnership with The University of Texas at Austin School of Design and Creative Technologies (SDCTx) to deliver online workshops designed to upskill organisations in design thinking.

Mala Manku, October 2020

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