From startups to global brands, everyone is rapidly adopting the design thinking approach. This has also permeated our education system with design thinking is being taught at some of the leading universities around the world. But do you know what it really is?

Well, simply put; design thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.

Sound simple? Well, it actually is simple to understand, but challenging to execute well. However, one thing that it does do is provide a strong framework to help us improve our decision-making and in the process, build a strong strategy from the ground up.

Why applying design thinking to strategy works

Design thinking is actually a proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that is applicable to businesses in any field. Design thinking combines both creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained.

It focuses on solutions rather than problems and roadblocks. In fact, one of the main aspects of design thinking is simply thinking and developing a solution to solve a need. Thinking remains a critical and often overlooked aspect of problem-solving, because we focus on efficiency and speed to the detriment of developing a fully-conceived solution.

How does design thinking relate to strategic thinking?

person holding black marker pen

There are so many similarities between the two, but a fundamental change in thought and mindset is required to get it right. They share the same principles, such as:

  • Design is innovative. Good strategy requires innovative thinking and creativity to be truly effective.
  • Design makes things useful and user-friendly. While this may seem fairly obvious, many of us get carried away inflating a shiny facade that distracts, rather than working with actual value-add offered to customers. Good strategy should always add value and make it easier to use.
  • Good design is appealing. A strong strategy needs to appeal to its audience and they have to buy-in. This is a critical aspect of any change.
  • Great design lasts for a long-time. A great strategy needs to remain relevant over time – surviving fads and leveraging on long-term trends.
  • Design should not be pretentious. Strategies should avoid the hubris and focus on effectiveness without the need for pride to be involved – the shortest and most effective path to success is most important.
  • Good design is simple. Complexity can be the downfall of any good strategy. Simplicity is sophistication when it comes to strategy and design – as it lends itself to being easy to implement and effective.
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