We see companies becoming more dependent on creative thinking and problem solving to survive. The challenge with traditional business structures is that they do not foster the type of creative environment needed to innovate.
Business management is becoming more and more of a design problem, where it is up to the leaders of the organization to start with the desired outcome and manage the business and move towards that vision.
This is a radical transformation, and one that will not happen overnight. But there are key design principles that leaders can adopt to rethink the way they approach day-to-day work at their companies. In short, companies need to become more design-driven if they want to truly be innovative.
Applying the design process to business
The first step of the design process is to identify the problem. How you define the problem directly impacts the solution, so it is important to get this part right. What challenge is your business trying to overcome? More leads? Increased revenue? Conduct qualitative and quantitative research to gain valuable insight to the problem at hand.
Next, define the criteria for success. Before offering any type of solution, know what success looks like for your organization. This is usually some measureable result—increase revenue by x percent, reduce attrition, more trial signups.
Traditionally, businesses would look for the proven method of success and apply it to their model. This is where a design-driven business has the most opportunity to differentiate itself. From a designer’s perspective, there is always room for finding a different, potentially better, solution. How can your solution be different from every other solution out there?
The way to uncover this is through rapid iteration — the repetition of proposing, building, and testing potential solutions to the problem. The key to this process is building and testing ideas quickly so you can determine its validity as a potential solution and try something else. It’s not enough to propose an idea that might work. Build it. Test it. Try again.
The last step of the design process is deciding — or, more appropriately, dismissing. In the iteration phase, you saw many potential solutions, some good, others not. Dismiss the not-so-good ideas and focus on the ones that are most elegant. This process, however, is not so black and white. Often, different solutions solve different parts of the problem and not others. Elegance is achieving as much of the solution criteria in the simplest way.
How companies can be more design-driven
1. Offer flexibility within constraints. Employees need guideposts to operate within around budgets, goals or milestones. This is especially important during the iteration phase. When there are outlined parameters from the beginning, employees will thrive on the increased autonomy.
2. Develop a culture of iteration that permeates throughout all parts of the business. This applies to company policies, benefits, and even management structure. When there is the assumption that things don’t have to stay the same for long, it becomes easier for the company to make needed adjustments
3. Finally, companies need tools that enable leaders and team members to focus on the solution, not the mundane work that gets in the way. This is something I think about every day at 10,000ft — how to enable companies to be better decision-makers. Whether it’s a resource management tool, design software, or an accounting program, tools should support the organization in building an environment that nurtures innovation, rather than constrains the path to it.