Design thinking is a problem solving approach that focuses on people and their emotional responses. It helps identify what matters to people, both outside and inside of the organization – and is being used with increasing frequency in enterprise process and operational transformation.
Design thinking's root: finding a better way to respond to least loved ERP-reliant processes and tools
Hasso Plattner, an SAP cofounder and now staunch proponent of design thinking, confronted such a challenge. Plattner and others observed that traditional ERP user-interface design creates challenges most software engineers are ill prepared to solve. This nagging problem resulted in many functionalities in complex systems – ones that had been painstakingly implemented and change managed – going unused in all situations but those where mandated. The issue so vexed Plattner he decided to lend his vision and financial support to establishing Stanford's Institute of Design to help resolve it.
Design thinking drives the choice made of where to commit to organizational intervention. It also limits the interventional scope to a more finite set of areas, and in so doing, reduces the complexity of transforming large enterprises and their complex pre-existing systems and processes. That's extremely important in the complex, legacy ridden process environments typical of large enterprises.
Importantly, before solving the inevitable technical and organizational viability constraints, design thinking first seeks to identify what drives desirability. It pushes practitioners to observe relevant people in their environment. It encourages the continuous trial of possible solutions using prototypes developed on the fly and then refined as additional understanding is acquired.
This fast and fluid tack contrasts sharply with typical consulting and reengineering efforts, which stress deep analysis of current processes, immediate collection of functional specs, and rapid identification of possible technology vendors.
“To use designing thinking, or not?"
As helpful as design thinking can be, it isn't always the right approach. There are, however, three circumstances where the decision to employ it makes tremendous sense.
The deliberate “moonshot"
Some problems resists solution by any conventional means. The approach and impact sought here isn't incremental, but disruptive. A moonshot requires assembling a team of best and brightest from various disciplines and situations.
When humans get in the way
Here, we're talking about instances where, conscious or not, those involved in as-is processes under scrutiny are motivated to obstruct the design and implementation of future-state ones. Resistance is usually Luddite like, with attempts to adopt innovative, technology-driven solutions seriously jeopardized by those reluctant to embrace new ways of operating.
Solutions sought are unique
Especially for problems of strategic nature that require superior operational effectiveness, there's often no tidy “off the shelf" technological solution that can be purchased, or managerial “best practice" that can be copied. Sooner or later, a unique problem arises that no ready-made solution can address.
Want to learn more about how to use design thinking in enterprise process operations check out this paper too. And let me know your experiences!