If you long to design the next iPod, iPhone or Blackberry; if you stay up late at night contemplating the next Facebook or Twitter; if you dream of making it big in cupcakes, sports drinks or spinning hubcaps, you’ve mostly likely come down with a case of innovation envy. What you really need is a dose of “design thinking.” So says, Roger Martin, dean of a business school in Toronto, who is peddling his latest book, “The Design of Business.”
In business today there are two corporate Americas. There is analytical corporate America with its charts, graphs, metrics and other data-driven approaches, and there is creative corporate America with its colors, shapes, textures, scents, squiggly lines and dances. Successful companies merge these two corporate styles – though creative America might take issue with the “corporate” defitnion. Either way, the end result is design thinking for better innovation.
From Cirque Du Soleil to RIM, companies are using design thinking to innovate their way out of their old-fashioned ways and achieve the competitive edge. At a general level it involves a focus on brainstorming, focus on the ideas rather than on the person generating the ideas, and for the most part, encouraging wild ideas. This thinking led Bank of America to offer a bank account where debit card purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the rest goes into a savings account. This generated ten million new customers and $1.8 billion in savings.
One interesting use of design thinking was employed by IDEO, the company that designed the first mouse and an iPhone app for balloon animals. It brainstormed a method to curb British rage with “queue minutes,” something akin to airline miles. Since Brits are highly annoyed and likely to descend into rage over queuing (waiting in line) issues, the program allows them to accumulate queuing minutes while waiting in line and then donating those minutes to charity. Now if they could only brainstorm a solution for line jumpers.