Tuesday, July 13, 2010

design thinking and leadership

I just finished reading a book on design thinking “Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation” by Tim Brown.

The book really has some very interesting ideas. The basic tenet is that the methods used by designers can also be used to solve various problems faced by our society. I found that the methods are also useful for leaders of our organizations.

For example, the first method used by designers is to understand the users requirements, “get out in the field”. This method also states that user requirement specifications can hardly capture what users really experience, so design thinkers must implant themselves within user’s world. In other words, A design thinker should be like an anthropologist. It is important for a leader to understand his / her constituants, be it external or internal.

I feel that this way of knowing users is very useful for almost everyone, be it leaders, software requirement analysts or anyone who works for or with people.

Similarly another method such as prototyping i.e. trying out the solutions to get the feel of how it will work is very useful. Often we find that someone thinks out a solution, and because of the reputation of that person the solution gains support and it is implemented at a large scale without testing. Leaders must try to test the ideas before implementing them in a big way.

Another method of design thinkers is use of stories to communicate the ideas. It is equally important to communicate your ideas effectively after they are developed or may be before the full development to share the ideas with your peers. Leaders job is to build a share vision and then to communicate that shared vision effectively. And what is a better way than stories to communicate such a vision?

The complete review of the book may not be feasible, so I would suggest reading the book to understand its intent.

In case you can not find time to read the entire book, you may also get some ideas by reading the Harvard Business Review article "design Thinking" by Tim Brown in June 2008 issue.

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