I've been reading a lot lately about a rapidly growing business trend called, "Design Thinking," a practice widely popularized by global innovation and design consulting firm, IDEO, which describes the close collaboration of analytical and creative people who are addressing a product or service innovation problem. "Design Thinking" is often characterized by rapid prototyping or iteration until one has arrived at an innovative solution. Enterpreneurial types call it "design by failure," with the understanding that it is through multiple failures that success is born. It is the model companies like Apple have taken and one that is headed toward the tipping point of becoming common corporate business practice in the digital age, which is tracking toward becoming the "age of innovation."
In his recent article, Nine ways to get the most out of design thinking, Rick Wise, CEO of Lippincott, a global branding and strategy firm, does a nice job of showing how his business employs Design Thinking. There are a couple of points in particular Wise makes to which I can relate:
First, in the search to hire right brain creatives and left brain analytic thinkers, he looks for creatives with the capacity for analytical thinking, and analytical folks with a creative flair. This is a great hiring paramaeter and what we at RainCastle have always tried to do.
Wise also fosters an environment in which everyone has the shared identity of "business people,"which for some creatives may be a little like trying on a new suit that doesn't quite fit. But in the new economy, where almost everyone needs to be at some level, an entrepreneur, this is a welcome trend and will give creatives early confidence that their talents can make a difference in the world.
As a "native creative," (my term, you read it here first), I've found my own way to the business table by owning a company and becoming a strategist, as well as a creative director. This has taken time throughout the course of an era that viewed right brain thinking as secondary to left brain analytics. What companies like Apple, IDEO, Lipincott and others realize today through the practice of "Design Thinking" is that "innovation," which most of us believe to be the future of this country, depends on the seamless integration of analytical and creative thought leaders.
In his book, "A Whole New Mind," author Daniel Pink calls this the beginning of a "Conceptual Age, in which right directed aptitudes, so often disdained and dismissed — empathy, artistry, taking the long view, and pursuing the trancendant — will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles." Sounds a lot like Steve Jobs to me.
In several ways, I see the tenets of "Design Thinking" and the increasing esteem of right brain thinking applied to our own business, based on some of Daniel Pinks above-mentioned right brain descriptors:
Empathy - Empathy here means spending more time with our customer and sometimes our customer's customer to better understand the context in which our brand, web and marketing solutions will live.
Artistry - Providing even more visualizations of our client's business concepts because we live in a world where visual artistry is increasingly required; nobody wants to read, and people expect business concepts to be quick, easily digestible and instantly shareable. We will provide even more unique infographics, video, icons and illustrated concepts.
Taking the long view - Alhough for 20 years we have viewed our brand and web work like master craftsmen, today, to some degree, the "Design Thinking" view of crafting brand language and websites should be more iterative. We can apply web analytics to track customer and prospect reaction and update langauge and visuals continuously. Noodling each graphic and phrase, five, six, seven times before making it public is now, in most cases, the surest way to be left behind. Educating our clients on this changing paradigm will be an even greater challenge than changing our own longstanding methodologies. Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing that makes our business and that of our clients who embrace this thinking, feel alive.
Do you think your business could benefit from applying "Design Thinking?" Do you agree with Daniel Pink that we have entered "The Conceptual Age?"