“To unlock its potential Design Thinking needs to be led by design leaders and fully ingrained into organisations.”

Design Thinking that sticks

A manifesto for ingraining Design Thinking in your organization


Design Thinking is not the holy grail, but...

Let’s get real. Design thinking is not a panacea to all ills. 
It may not be right for your organization. 
It certainly won’t suit every individual. 
And it can not solve all problems.

But we believe - and with us many others - that in the right hands it can most certainly empower your company to innovate better and solve some big problems.


Design Thinking is a design leader's job.

It needs to be in the right hands. And we believe those hands should be yours. As a design leader, you are the ideal person to make Design Thinking a success.

Why? Because the core principles of Design Thinking – qualities like empathy and envisioning – are the self-same qualities that are ingrained in the best design leaders.

The real key? Learning to unlock these qualities in your colleagues across the business...


Design Thinking: Our definition.

Like many in the industry we have strong opinions about Design Thinking. The big difference is that ours are based on the experiences of working with design leaders day-by-day on implementing Design Thinking. So what’s our definition?

Design Thinking is about applying the best of conventional design capabilities to solve complex problems outside the realm of today’s design function.


What's so special about design capabilities?

It needs to be in the right hands. And we believe those hands should be yours. As a design leader, you are the ideal person to make Design Thinking a success.

Reframing: They say that the frame is sometimes more important than the picture. Designers are very good at reformulating challenges and problems to uncover more potential solutions.

Empathy: Walking in colleagues’ consumers' shoes doesn’t come easily to everyone; but it does to most designers. 
Which can lead to resolving problems in unexpected ways.

Iteration: Create, prototype, evaluate and improve: step-by-step. This meticulous way of working comes naturally to designers.

Envisioning: Designers have furtive imaginations. We’re good at envisioning future scenarios and ‘inviting people to join us’ in assessing their plausibility.

(Not to mention the obvious: Storytelling, and of course the power of visualization.)


And the most important design capability of all?

It’s arguably the most intangible one: Optimism.

Good design leaders have an inherently positive outlook and a conviction in creativity to solve seemingly insoluble challenges. “There must be a way!”


The best design leaders not only believe it themselves but have the ability to motivate others to share that belief and effect real change.

Putting design capabilities to work beyond the design department.

Our organizational purpose is to support design leaders like you - so it makes sense to help you tackle this tough but potentially rewarding topic as well. Here are just a few examples of what we mean…


Example 1: Design Thinking to tackle shifting markets.

The design leader at our client AM, a large real estate developer, created a Design Thinking training for business developers.

This training focused on empathizing and envisioning, helping the team develop new types of housing based on real needs.

This helped the real estate developer survive the shift in their market place from a supply-market to a request-market.


Example 2: Design Thinking to provoke strategy creation.

The design leader at our client Johnson Controls, one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers, organized Design Thinking sessions for the top 60 business leaders of the company.

In these sessions these leaders were asked to revisit their strategic plans by reframing their challenges, empathizing with customers and consumers, and envisioning new collaborations or market opportunities.

This initially caused some friction, but all leaders agreed afterwards that it brought a valuable new perspective to their challenges.


Example 3: Design Thinking to boost 'tough' innovation.

One of the design leaders at our client Hewlett Packard commissioned a Design Thinking program for engineers, as an introduction to this new way of working.

In these training sessions, entire project teams are introduced to a set of design capabilities like empathizing, envisioning, reframing and iterating.

This in turn enables the engineers to tackle their big hairy innovation problems while also creating better understanding when collaborating with design teams.


Example 4: Design Thinking to revisit customer segmentation.

The design leader at our client GlaxoSmithKline organizes Design Thinking get-togethers for the company’s marketeers and scientists.

These events not only inspire his colleagues to envision their role in building great customer experiences; they also build greater trust amongst design and marketing teams - and help marketeers approach their target groups in new ways.

All these Design Thinking successes have a common thread.

The design leader was leading the Design Thinking process!

Design Leaders have a deep understanding of design (obviously). But they also have a thorough grasp of business – and how (and where) to apply design capabilities to solve deep-seated commercial problems.

It’s what you do. The framework of Design Thinking just helps you to do it better.


Lessons learned.

‘How can we do it better?’ is also a question we’ve asked ourselves at PARK. After all, reflection and iteration is an important part of Design Thinking.

The bottom line: Design Thinking (including our own) needs to be more specific for it to really stick - and thus deliver even more tangible value.

What do we mean, exactly? Well, Design Thinking is not a short-term ‘let’s send them all on a course and hope they remember something’ type of proposition.

Your colleagues really need to believe in it and practice it. And that means it has to be truly ingrained…
So how?


Ingraining Design Thinking.

To get the most from Design Thinking it needs to be ingrained into the the very fabric of your organization. 
Why? Because ingraining makes it...

  • More specific: People can relate to Design Thinking in more detail, over time.
  • More applicable: People can actually use it in their daily lives and see the value (ingraining it yet further).
  • More measurable: People can actually see (and prove) that is works.

Six practical steps to getting Design Thinking ingrained.

Forget ‘stand and deliver’ training. Design Thinking is a slow burner. People need time for it to sink in. Your job as design leader is to maintain the momentum. Follow up, explain and nurture.

  • Make it specific
    Give yourself the best chance for success by making it as personal, meaningful – and relevant as possible for people. Use specific cases, examples, exercises, issues and languages.
  • Train and train
    Yes, there is still a place for the Design Thinking training we all know and love; but try and apply it to real-life teams rather than disparate individuals (and don’t forget to train the trainer!).
  • Apply it
    What people learn needs to be applied quickly – before they forget it. A good way to tackle this is by extending training into tailored sessions with project teams working on real-life (wicked) challenges.
  • Champion it
    You can’t do it all on your own. You need ambassadors who can identify ripe opportunities for Design Thinking and bring their colleagues along with them.
  • Involve leadership
    Buy-in from senior leaders is essential. They need to understand how and why design capabilities can help their teams tackle and overcome defining organizational challenges.
  • Acknowledge success
    To be taken seriously, Design Thinking needs to demonstrate how it makes a serious contribution to adding value. It’s that simple…

Sticky enough for you?

Design Thinking has huge potential to truly lift your organization. 
Provided you don’t let it become a balloon of hot air. 
To reach its potential Design Thinking needs to be truly ingrained. 
And that means making it real every day. 
Here’s hoping our advice… sticks.