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  • Carol Wong

Making design thinking your core competencies


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 d.school 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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