My Book on Design Thinking titled ‘Design the Future’

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Design the Future

Hi! As some of you might already know, my book on design thinking, titled ‘Design the Future’ is out!

Despite design thinking being several decades old, we are seeing increasing relevance in its application in our fast-paced lives today. I’ve read incredible books on the subject in the years I’ve been practicing it. However, I still find confusion & uncertainty among some of those who have been practicing it, as well as those merely trying to learn it.

‘Design the Future’ is an effort to reduce grey areas by building a stronger foundation. It covers the fundamentals, examples from around the world, and my observations, notes and learning of design thinking & human behavior.

If innovation, design thinking, problem-solving, human behavior or ideation are areas of interest, I’m sure you will enjoy reading this book.

Currently, paperbacks are on AmazonFlipkartInfibeam , and other online bookstores.

If you do read the book, I’d be grateful if you can leave me a review on Amazon.

You can reach me at ‘shrutin [at] ateamstrategy [dot] in’ with your views, or if you’d like me to answer any questions or doubts you might have.

Hope you enjoy reading the book & find it useful in supplementing your design thinking skills.

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Look forward to your views. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Why Design Thinking is Here to Stay

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Why Design Thinking is Here to Stay

A close friend recently shared this article titled ‘Why Design Thinking will fail’, written in 2013 by Jeffrey Tjendra. Jeffrey is a designer entrepreneur and strategist. Among some of us friends, there was were points of disagreement on the article. Jeffrey does seem to have a good understanding of design thinking. This post, however, is an effort towards taking a closer look at each point mentioned there. And to see if it makes sense or not. All of this, with my limited but growing knowledge of design thinking.

Before I begin, here’s a quote by Mara Wilson. While her quote describes storytelling, I believe it offers a more far reaching explanation. With products and services too, for instance. She said, “The more specific you get, the more universal it is. (It’s a special alchemy of storytelling).” – Mara Wilson

Back to the article, here goes:

  1. Misperception of Meaning – I’ll agree, it can be misleading to some. I use either ‘human-centered’ or ‘user-centered’ design thinking in an attempt to bring a little more clarity, especially when interacting with people I believe might misinterpret the meaning.
  2. Loss of Meaning – Can’t do much about that. A lot of effective methodologies often see phases of hype and a lot of randomness being packaged and sold in its name. But as the dust settles, only the real stuff and an increased respect remains.
  3. Misunderstanding and Not Accepting Creative Elements – True. However, any company or more specifically, a management that has ever worked on any form of creativity or innovation, knows how boring, full of trials and iterations, full of mess and uncertainty it can be. Look at your kid’s school projects for instance. If it isn’t too simple, it is bound to take a lot of ‘random’, before it starts to make sense. Anyone who doesn’t understand that, will surely not use design thinking. And that’s alright.
  4. Lack of Business Elements – Coming from a management and finance background, with experience in strategy and marketing, I tend to build those critical business aspects to a design thinking project. And that is especially why the design thinking team needs to have a wide-enough assortment of skillsets. Using only UI/UX people or ethnographers or psychologists is not going to do the trick.
  5. Language and Perspective Barriers – There have been worse instances of communication gaps. For instance, if you have heard the almost unbelievable and heroic story of the Gimli Glider. An obvious technical specification got so conveniently ignored, that it put at risk, 69 occupants aboard a Boeing 767. Read the fascinating story! So, it just boils down to the intention and seriousness of the parties involved. Nothing is foolproof or idiot-proof. But a lot of change and innovation can be brought about with the right intentions. And no amount of left-brain learning and practice can fix unpredictable situations either. Because a lot of left-brain thinkers often learn a process from end to end. Any deviation could potentially leave them baffled. Creative thinking, on the other hand, helps one focus on the fundamentals. On understanding the building blocks more and more. And then, irrespective of situations or deviations to them, there is often more clarity as the building blocks can be used to better understand complexity. And it’s often easier to communicate fundamental building blocks across language barriers, as opposed to communicating complexity to begin with.
  6. Missing Future – Even design thinking veterans like IDEO have made mistakes, overestimating future demand of tech products. A strong problem or opportunity statement (which is open to being updated when you learn more about the end-user) helps reduce the risk. As does an unbiased and strong mechanism to interact with, and observe and understand needs, behaviours and desires of end-users, and capture that information towards building a solution.
  7. Wrong Implementation of Process – Which is why a lot of products and ingredients come with ‘Instructions to Use’. If an ingredient needs to be mixed and cooked, simply sprinkling it will not help.
  8. Poor Direction Scoping – This is where an intention and objective to start with, matters. There are billions of people, billions of problems and billions more opportunities. Which one or ones do you want to target. That’s what you pursue. Ignore everything else.
  9. Co-creation at the End of Process – all I’ll say is, phone sex doesn’t help create babies.
  10. Misconception of Approach to Creativity – This is true. Some people would tend to follow the design thinking process like it is a treasure map, when in fact, it is navigating your way through hostile jungle. Your senses need to be on alert all the time. Any input can change a lot of initial assumptions. That lions don’t climb trees. Or that chimps tend to rely on third party to help resolve disputes.
  11. Wishful Thinking for Culture of Innovation – Completely agree here. Which is why, a startup whose founders have the right values and give importance to innovation, can build it better into their culture, as opposed to trying to inject it into a global behemoth that has a century of history.
  12. The End Process is not the End – true – design teams, just like any other specialty teams, need to walk the talk. Leaving projects with solution advice that is abstract to clients, won’t serve anyone’s purpose. A lot of large consulting firms were infamous for doing this back in the day. Leaving clients many million dollars poorer, and with a big “report” that the client was clueless what to do with.
  13. Risk of Stagnancy – As Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Thoughts?

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Number Fifty-Four…The Bike with a Bamboo Core

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Number Fifty-Four…

…The bike with a bamboo core!

What does it take for innovation to be possible? Simply, just the intention. You need to want it badly enough to make it possible.

I happened to see this online a long time ago. I am still in awe of it though. People in Ghana find themselves in unfavourable temperatures, with long distances to go, but with limited connectivity. But rather than endure, with some external help, they designed bicycles built with a bamboo frame. They could easily source the other parts, which were standard to regular bikes. This innovation however, helped build a bike at a fraction of the cost of the ones normally available.

And I’ve found that regular bikes these days, corrode easily, and require considerable maintenance. These bamboo bikes however, seem to be easier to maintain. They can also be built for different sizes and for different applications (carrier, etc.). A green, economical idea that addresses so many needs. In times of compulsive and impulsive purchases all over the world, this is just the kind of impressive and refreshing innovation the world needs.

Don’t miss the video at the end.

A standard bike: source

A bike with a carrier and a carrier support frame: source

Image: source

 

You can read more about it here: link

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A Session on Innovation, Design Thinking & The Future of Work

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A Session on Innovation, Design Thinking & The Future of Work

Earlier this week, I was invited to conduct a session around ‘Innovation, Design Thinking and the Future of Work’ at the Indian School of Management & Entrepreneurship, for a batch of about 170 grad students from Vaze College. The most enjoyable session I’ve had so far.

 

An ideation exercise I conducted, had the students thinking of ideas to replace the irreplaceable smartphone. And what innovative ideas they were!! Absolutely impressive! I barely heard 6-7 ideas for fear of running out of time. If only there was enough time to hear all the ideas.

 

 

The session started with about 4-5 students believing themselves to be creative and innovative. By the end of the session, over 80% of them believed they were innovative and creative. It was a truly humbling experience. With these brilliant folk entering professional life soon, the future looks promising!

 

 

While I’d really like to list out some of the ideas that the students came up with during the session, I’ll resist the temptation. In the hope that at least some of them would pursue their idea and make a world-transforming business out of it in the near future.

 

 

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What the Customer Wants

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What the Customer Wants

There has been the occasional debate between two schools of thought:

You need to ask the customer what he/she wants; and,

The customer doesn’t know what he/she wants until we show them (remember ol Steve Jobs?)

A bulk of the views I’ve come across so far lie on the side of ‘ask the customer’. However, it isn’t often that you find companies that build sound offerings and experiences that delight customers. And when questioned, a lot of them agree that no one really asked the customer. The huge divide between logical sounding answers on innovation, and contradicting real-life actions.

In fact, it all depends on how much improvement you want.

If you only need an incremental edge over competitors, your company’s efforts too will be similar – marginal targets, marginal budgets, marginal efforts. This might include a superficial but fancy-sounding customer survey, or just a few managers in the meeting room thinking of ways to tweak the existing product. In all, uninspiring intent, uninspiring effort, uninspiring results.

However, if what your business needs is a leap in growth, you need radically new offerings. That’s where customer inputs come in. From personal experience, I’ve come to realize that customers themselves often may not know or be able to hint at what might be a final solution going forward. But your interactions with your customers will be the only thing that will spark of that genius idea for an innovative new solution. Nothing else can trigger that. No research reports or internal ‘brainstorming’ can. But it is the customer who will help you get there. And the whole journey isn’t like a surgical missile strike or a silver bullet or an instant mix; but more like clay pottery.

You start with a meaningless mass of possibilities, spin them around, try things, make corrections, keep spinning, more tries, more corrections, till finally you have something wonderful shaping out. Something previously unthought of. Something incredible.

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Design Thinking Basics – 3

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In his book ‘Change by Design’,  Tim Brown of IDEO highlights the 3 spaces of innovation. These criteria could be considered as some of the foundation pillars of Design Thinking. Here’s a pictorial representation of the same.

What is Design Thinking?

‘Human-centered Design Thinking’ is a mindset, an approach, and some tools that help solve complex problems or pursue complex opportunities. Unlike traditional problem-solving methods or ideation, it first aims to help understand end users, final objectives or root causes. They could be about actual consumers, business culture, products, services, or even experiences among other things.

Here are the previous two posts on Design Thinking, in case you missed them:

Design Thinking Basics – 1: link

Design Thinking Basics – 2: link

Do subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) to know more about Design Thinking and other topics that encourage reflection and discussion.

Feel free to share your views. I will revert at the earliest.

And if there’s any complex opportunity or problem you are facing at your company, I might be able to help. Get in touch at shrutin[at]ateamstrategy[dot]in

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Design Thinking Basics – 2

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In his book ‘Change by Design’,  Tim Brown of IDEO succinctly explains the 3 mutually reinforcing elements of successful design programs. These criteria could be considered as some of the foundation pillars of Design Thinking. Here’s a pictorial representation of the same.

What is Design Thinking?

‘Human-centered Design Thinking’ is a mindset, an approach, and some tools that help solve complex problems or pursue complex opportunities. Unlike traditional problem-solving methods or ideation, it first aims to help understand end users, final objectives or root causes. They could be about actual consumers, business culture, products, services, or even experiences among other things.

We can then work towards innovating and building increasingly relevant solutions. And when attempting to solve complex problems, it helps us get closer to the actual root cause of problems. Then of course, the tools help you innovate and solve problems in a highly effective way.

Haven’t you noticed how, when approaching a situation logically, one can broadly anticipate a solution early on? True innovation however, usually happens in leaps, and results often surprise. Design thinking is a proven way to innovate.

The best part about design thinking: If done sincerely, the results can be as surprising, as they are effective.

Feel free to share your views. I will revert at the earliest. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Function, Form, and Overripe Apples

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Image: source

Over the decades, we have been seeing Apple grow at a blistering pace. Built on thinking different while staying hungry and foolish, it certainly created new sectors while killing redundant ones. With unwavering customer-focus, Apple maintained child-like curiosity, unbelievable innovation, and startup agility. The brand continues to enjoy a stronger following than even some religious cults.

The iPhone surely leaves little to be desired in terms of image/video quality, physical design, appearance and accessories. Yet, with each new iPhone that is launched, its key features have long been available on Android phones. Or it has features that are easily copied (for whatever they’re worth) by up-and-coming mobile phone manufacturers.

In design, one of the guiding rules is of form ideally following function.

So, the big question is, has Apple permanently lost its startup like agility and freshness? More importantly, how long will it retain its cult following purely on form, if function continues to lag behind?

Would love your thoughts on this.
Feel free to share your views. I will revert at the earliest. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Design Thinking Basics – 1

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In his book ‘Change by Design’,  Tim Brown of IDEO succinctly explains the 3 overlapping criteria for successful ideas. These criteria could be considered as some of the foundation pillars of Design Thinking. Here’s a pictorial representation of the same.

And what is Design Thinking?

‘Human-centered Design Thinking’ is a mindset, an approach, and some tools that help solve complex problems or pursue complex opportunities. Unlike traditional problem-solving methods or ideation, it first aims to help understand end users, final objectives or root causes. They could be about actual consumers, business culture, products, services, or even experiences among other things.

We can then work towards innovating and building increasingly relevant solutions. And when attempting to solve complex problems, it helps us get closer to the actual root cause of problems. Then of course, the tools help you innovate and solve problems in a highly effective way.

Haven’t you noticed how, when approaching a situation logically, one can broadly anticipate a solution early on? Yet, we know that true innovation usually happens in leaps, and results often surprise. Design thinking is a proven way to innovate.

The best part about design thinking: If done sincerely, the results can be as surprising, as they are effective.

Feel free to share your views. I will revert at the earliest. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

An Ideation Session at SIMSR

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An Ideation Session at SIMSR

The crack team at K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research (SIMSR) that made it happen…

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The 80+ exceptional minds that came up with some surprisingly amazing ideas…

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A point about how aggregators must ensure sufficient value-add to become profitable faster, and continue to stay relevant to customers…

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If they can come up with great ideas on a Sunday morning, imagine what they are capable of during the average week…

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Some future entrepreneurs of India…

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The multiple, potential ideas that participants generated within under 25 minutes despite some crazy constraints…IMG_0029 - Copy

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Look forward to your views. And if you liked this one, consider following/subscribing to my blog (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.