Design Thinking Incorporated

Strategy & Innovation

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"If you rewind through design history, the most thrilling periods are the ones of the greatest change, when designers interpreted shifts in science, technology, behavior and politics for the rest of us. Take the explosion of innovation during the 1920's „machine age" and the 1960's „space age". In other words design has the best chance to advance when emerging technologies offer new opportunities, challenges, and limits to the process." (Alice Rawsthorn, The New York times)


Design Management Institute Symposium

Our Expertise Center Business Design and Innovation is one of our most indispensable resources when it comes to remaining on top of new developments and formulating answers to companies’ most pressing needs. Our work has a solid academic foundation, but our key concern is staying relevant when it comes to to application and action. This is yet another reason to expand from academic conferences to practitioners’ meetings. The DMI Symposium of March 8th and 9th was an example of those interesting platforms situated at the intersection of business, academia and consultancy.  

Who takes part in these events? Major corporations such as GE Healthcare, Siemens, BMW, Designworks, Volkswagen, Academic institutions and business schools (including yours truly) and design agencies like INDEED (Hamburg), Frog Design (Milan), Van Berlo (Eindhoven), and many others besides. In short, exactly the type of people you should be meeting if you want to refine or challenge your vision of where design and innovation are headed in the next few years. (For now, remember the term Design 4.0: you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll hear it in the near future).

A steadily growing contingent of people working in technology-road-mapping, artificial intelligence and machine-learning and driverless vehicles are finding their way (back) to design symposia, driven by the nascent understanding that Industry 4.0 will become first and foremost a social and human challenge. Design (Thinking) will play a pivotal role in the creation of a sustainable connection between (disruptive) technology and society, possibility and humanity. It’s high time for Design 4.0.


Connecting design to strategy

I was disconcerted at how swiftly the theme of the symposium shifted from ‘connecting design to strategy’ to ‘embedding design thinking in your organization’. Making more concrete the connection between why your company does something (strategy) and how it does it (design) can be tricky, especially as this step demands thorough analysis and decision-making and consequently leaves people a bit apprehensive.

This connection between why and what, however, becomes increasingly relevant as trust (along with authenticity) appears to be developing into the “core value of the future” in the relation between a mission-driven company and its networked environment.


“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


The absence of a relationship between why and what also immediately reveals the state of the art of Design Thinking in most companies: implementing Design Thinking in an organization is so incredibly complex that most companies, and furthermore most symposia, courses and lectures as well, shy away from it – due to a lack of time, a lack of understanding, etc. Consequently, they often scale down Design Thinking to a mere creative process, rather than what it actually is: an adjustment that reshapes your attitude and way of thinking to help you innovate.


"The ‘embedding’ of Design Thinking is a change process that requires time. Learning to think differently literally implies laying new neural connections, a process that can hardly be completed within the space of a single workshop; it demands repetition and incorporation."


Design Thinking is a human rather than a process-based challenge

Inspiring the change in attitude and thinking that goes hand-in-hand with your staff’s design thinking process is the real embedding of Design Thinking in your organization.

This ‘embedding’ is a change process that requires time. Learning to think differently literally implies laying new neural connections, a process that can hardly be completed within the space of a single workshop; it demands repetition and incorporation. (“design thinking incorporated”, … in people and organizations… isn’t that just the most charming title for a book or essay… You heard it here first!


Stay Tuned

Connecting design to strategy? Once the attitude change is in motion, it’s a consequence rather than anything else. The highlights will be discussed in a number of subsequent blogposts. The hot topics will be:

1) How GE Healthcare is becoming a design-driven company
2) Design 4.0: the answer to the social challenge posed by Industry 4.0
3) Key factors that determine organizations’ innovative strength

Do you want to know more about our expertise in Business Design & Innovation? Discover more here