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An Innothinker's Mind

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People often asked me about the reasons for learning Design Thinking as a methodology to solve problems. What about the Lean Methodology, Fishbone Diagram, Mindmaps, Creative Thinking, Agile Methodology, Lean Start-up, and many more tools and techniques that they have learned? Are they supposed to replace problem-solving methods with Design Thinking? When do they apply Design Thinking?

I am thankful that I have learned a lot of methods, tools, and techniques during my early years of consulting. After all, Arthur Andersen took a lot of pride in training their people in St. Charles, USA. Those were the times that I have numerous great experience learning in St. Charles in the 1990s.

On reflection, I could see how I use all my past learnings when I apply Design Thinking as the approach to solving problems. After learning Design Thinking, it does not mean that I have to discard other problem-solving methods. Design Thinking provides me with a structured process allowing me to apply the various tools and techniques in solving complex problems.

I would say that I have accumulated a lot of valuable assets of methods, tools, and techniques in my toolbox that I can use appropriately in various circumstances. I continue to learn to refresh and enhance my knowledge. In many instances, I can pivot and adjust many specific tools and techniques for application in diagnosing problems and then generating creative solutions.

I encourage all to be confident in identifying and adapting your skills and toolsets in producing creative solutions to complex problems. Of course, be bold to leverage exponential technologies to generate exponential solutions (use ExO model).

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Design thinking is often used in developing social interventions that are different from the practical concerns of businesses as businesses are often known as "soulless organizations" given their focus on the bottom line. I hope that the global covid-19 crisis is a wake-up call for everyone. Some businesses have begun to reflect on the enlightened moments unleashed by the disruptive forces of the covid-19.

Businesses should rethink their priorities in social and economic development with greater emphasis on sustainable development goals. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) would be a good starting point to guide businesses to prioritize and craft their massively impactful sustainable purpose; inspired for social good and not for profit alone.

A highly aspirational massive transformative purpose (MTP) would drive businesses for long term sustainability. A shift from a shareholder perspective to a community perspective, evolving from a business profitability purpose to an MTP of contributing to society and humanity.

Translating the MTP or UNSDGs into a social design challenge brief would help define the initial game-changing statement for design thinking practitioners to begin their creative problem-solving journey. They would have adequate space to ground their ideas in the lives of their intended beneficiaries in society.

We have witnessed that social design issues exist in various parts of the world during these unprecedented times. Some of the examples include broken Western healthcare systems, widened digital divide, worsening gender inequalities, escalating unemployment, inequality access to education, and many more are surfacing.

In conclusion, design thinking is being for "people", and not for "profit". Drawing consciousness of our social responsibilities, we should seek out the most compelling insights from the marginalized, and most neglected, outlying populations to gain inspiration from their experience in the above situations. After all, social issues are, by definition, human-centered.

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Many young talents are attracted to organizations that adopt design thinking as one of their core management processes. They are looking for opportunities to excel and they like to be empowered to build and test new ideas. Design thinking is not a fad to them. They see the design thinking process provides them with the approach to solve complex problems (especially problems that resonant with them) and they can relate to the organization's agility to change and innovate rapidly. Furthermore, design thinking puts greater emphasis on unlocking people's potential in creating innovation.

Design thinking is not just a structured process of innovating products and services, design thinking is indeed an innovation cultural mindset that can be spread across all organizations. To inculcate this culture of innovation, companies must move towards making design thinking their core competencies. Companies can consider incorporating the following design thinking competencies in their current competency model:

Our ability to develop deep empathy for our community members (internal and external)

Key design thinking competencies to be included are the ability to listen with empathy to gain deep insights into the emotional needs of our internal and external stakeholders (employees, customers, communities at large). The skills involved getting outside the building to develop a deep understanding of problems that cannot be quantified based on facts and data available. Synthesis capabilities include the ability to make inferences and identify key insights to reframe the initial problem statement. The ability to empathize with the user's needs and experience begins with a deep understanding of their real emotional needs.

Our ability to harness the collective power of diverse teams

Design thinking power is bringing people of diverse backgrounds and experience to collaborate in solving complex problems and generating as many ideas as possible. Building on each other ideas and learning from each other are some of the core competencies expected. With the collective power of team collaboration, the ability to build a culture of experimentation is a key strength needed to encourage the testing of ideas rapidly and to celebrate failures as team learning.

Our ability to inspire others to unleash their potentials

The core foundation of design thinking is to unleash the creative confidence of people. Therefore, one key competency of people development and management is coaching skills - the ability to adopt appropriate coaching techniques to unleash people's potential. While being coached for personal development, employees of all levels are expected to self reflect to continuously learn and develop themselves.

In conclusion, as quoted by David Kelley, founder of Stanford and IDEO, "The main tenet of design thinking is empathy for the people you're trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing - building empathy for the people that you're entrusted to help." I, therefore, recommend that making design thinking your core competencies will bring about the changes that you would like to see for your people in embracing a culture of innovation and digital transformation.

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