To be a successful contributor today you’re building Cognitive Intelligence (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.).  In the last decade we’re building an emerging body of work around Creative Intelligence.  The need for innovation is at a fever pitch in most of the clients I’m serving now.  It’s in the values, the maxims, the strategic goals and the corporate university curricula.  How can we all be more creative and deliver innovation?  I believe there are a few key steps:
1) Amplify your creative style, whether you are Evolutionary or Revolutionary, trained as a scientist, actuary or employee relations expert.  Whatever your style and domain, go with it (if it makes you happy).
2) Focus on your strengths in the creative process: Are you a genius in defining problems?  Can you pop ideas ’til the cows come home?  Try to put yourself where you can shine.
3) Partner with your complementary colleagues.  Learn to collaborate.
5) Expand your skill set with distinct competencies and develop a reputation for unique talent.

Design Thinking is still a distinct competency.  Smart organizations and employees are exploiting the ability to perform deep user research to generate valuable innovations using this comprehensive frame of mind.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes Design Thinking:

As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. While design thinking has become part of the popular lexicon in contemporary design and engineering practice, as well as business and management, its broader use in describing a particular style of creative thinking-in-action is having an increasing influence on twenty-first century education across disciplines.

Wherever you are in your organization Design Thinking can help you explore challenges more holistically and generate breakthrough solutions.

Examples of Design Thinking at Work
My Design Thinker colleagues and I have been facilitating the computer simulation in a variety of organizations and industries.  At several consumer products companies the workshop is being combined with consumer immersion activities to immediately generate insights that lead to more original options.  When the obvious has been considered (and found underwhelming) a user-centered approach is a rich alternative for generating innovation in the customer experience.

The first workshop I taught early last year was for Country Directors at MercyCorps.  This method of problem solving is an easy fit with any kind of social innovation.  Some of the most exciting work is happening in developing countries.  Ingenuity is being applied to fundamental challenges such as ensuring safe water, rudimentary health care and nutritious food.  New micro-busineeses and payment systems are inventive under constraints of power and accessibility.  IDEO has a free Human-Centered Design Toolkit to ‘inspire new solutions in the developing world.”

MBA programs are also recognizing the need for Design Thinking in the B-school curriculum.  INSEAD, The Rotman School of Management in Toronto and Stanford are just a few of the top schools who are partnering with design schools to give new tools to graduates.  Students at Stanford created a non-profit organization Embrace out of a project.

Their low-cost incubator keeps infants warm at an exponentially lower cost than a traditional $20K incubator.  Design thinking is also part of executive education at numerous schools including Rotman and Stanford.

What’s in it for YOU?
Learning to think more like a designer will give you some hard skills for a different kind of problem solving.  Folks I’ve worked with cite two skills in particular:

  • The focus on ‘Extreme Users” to generate meaningful observations and insights
  • The ability to design experiments and rapid prototyping to test solutions

Finally, the ability to think this way can refresh your work.  Design Thinking is more than a set of creative problem-solving skills.  It is a Habit of Mind.