How Design Thinking Is Taking Over The World

How Design Thinking Is Taking Over The World
Brand Development

PSFK had the opportunity to catch up with IDEO's Bryan Walker on the role of a design firm in an ever-changing world

Jiwon Kim
  • 2 november 2017

Design thinking is no longer considered a buzzword, but a research strategy that is necessary to create better products and services for people. Global design and innovation firm IDEO has held the reputation of being the best design firm in the world, paving the way for good design to infiltrate all different kinds of companies. We caught up with IDEO’s Bryan Walker, Partner and Managing Director in San Francisco, to explore what the role of a design firm is in today’s ever-changing world. Bryan is an expert in designing for change.

What do you think is the role of a design firm in assisting brands to deliver services and products?

Design is particularly well-suited to unlocking new possibilities and mindsets. A design firm can help a brand imagine new services and products, embrace them throughout the organization and then bring them to life. Design firms can add value throughout the process of imagining, embracing and realizing a fresh offering, particularly one that’s new to the organization and the world, as opposed to an optimized version of what the company already does.

What do clients find most difficult about doing design without a design firm?

The most difficult part is forming new habits and embracing mindsets that are different—and sometimes even counter—to existing practices. It’s like learning to fly a plane; you can read the manual and technically understand flying, but you still might not be able to fly the plane. A design firm can help you learn to fly the plane and be your co-pilot on the journey.

What are the biggest mistakes clients make when creating internal design teams and processes?

One classic mistake is believing there’s no value in mastery. Having someone on your team study a topic for a week or two has value, but it doesn’t make that person the master of a new craft or way of working. Sometimes it really helps to bring in outside expertise. In spaces like innovation labs, we often see a similar tendency toward the superficial. Meeting rooms become “innovation rooms” and are filled with cheesy inspirational posters. Organizations think this will create new norms and behaviors, but it’s only a first step. You need truly systematic shifts in order to make creativity one of your competitive advantages.

What are specific things that a design consultancy can do well?

Design work is about imagining new possibilities and then making them feel achievable. One way of making the future seem less abstract is to create tangible “beacons”—small substantiations of that future vision, which get other people believing change is possible.

At this moment, corporate best practices to encourage efficiency—siloing, hierarchy, assembly line-style processes—are being challenged. Those practices were developed when the world was more static, but now disruption is the norm. Designers are good at working through ambiguity and uncertainty with action—prototyping and iteration. In the face of disruption, corporate leaders have to grapple with ambiguity, and they can do so by taking on the beliefs and mindsets of a designer.


Lead Image: IDEO

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