Design thinking is disrupting old-school command-and-control strategic management, and the financial impact of the innovative, collaborative and empathetic approach to doing business is undeniably positive.
McKinsey & Company, for instance, followed 300 public companies over five years, examining 100,000 design actions and more than two million pieces of financial data to build its McKinsey Design Index (MDI). Among other things, it found that companies in the MDI top 25% nearly doubled benchmark revenues and total shareholder return.
“Top-quartile companies embrace the full user experience; they break down internal barriers among physical, digital, and service design. The importance of user-centricity demands a broad-based view of where design can make a difference,” the report noted.
Design Thinking Begins with People
Design thinking is an approach to problem-solving — including new product or service research, development, roll out and organization of the post-pandemic remote working experience — that focuses on the end users’ needs.
Thought-leaders in the field typically challenge the “we’ve-always-done-it-this way” paradigm to look at problems from different perspectives, rapid-prototype solutions, evaluate them and refine them as the mandatories of design thinking.
For example, in 1994, Proctor & Gamble noticed the products of the consumer goods market had changed, and those of its competitors hadn’t in decades. Therefore, P&G hired the design firm Continuum to begin a product development process as a design thinking strategy.
Its first step was visiting prospective customers in their homes to watch them perform a universal household chore: cleaning floors with mops and buckets full of water that got dirtier as work proceeded. That was the tried-and-true technology of the time.
“Upon entering, we noticed something right away: The floors were already clean! Although they knew the intent of our visit, people still felt compelled to tidy up …. This signaled a fundamental insight into the home-cleaning experience: it’s value laden,” noted the Continuum case study.
The result of that critical, customer-centric understanding? The recognizable product, Swiffer.
By aligning the value of its “faster, better, easier” product with the value the market placed on clean floors, P&G sold 11.1 million starter kits in the first year, bringing in $100 million in sales and revolutionizing the floor-cleaning category. Since then, by breaking business units out of their silos to enable productive collaboration using customer-centric insights, Swiffer earned $500 million in sales annually.
Design Thinking for the Remote Workforce
Just as design thinking changes the way companies manage resources and approach their markets strategically, this method has also become increasingly useful as enterprises seek to support employees whose work lives are dramatically different from the pre-pandemic experience.
The management magazine strategy+business says the disruption provides “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase engagement and productivity” by adopting a design-thinking mindset to achieve strategic goals such as attracting and retaining productive employees, helping them improve performance and ensuring work-from-home behaviors align with the company’s value proposition.
“Designing the employee experience goes beyond figuring out how to make remote work possible and palatable or how to make work sites safer. The design-thinking mindset and tool kit that produce better customer experience can do the same for employees,” the magazine says.
Design Thinking Expertise Is Driving Career Opportunities
Entrepreneur magazine notes an increased demand for design-thinking problem-solving skills, like adaptability and empathy, as markets and workforces continue the trend to globalization: “Design thinking is no longer just associated with the design world, as it can be strategically implemented across various industries to solve complex problems. Hence, hiring employees with design thinking and problem-solving skills is not an option for companies; it’s a necessity.”
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with design thinking courses such as that at Boise State University could be a ticket to a rewarding, high-demand career. Students in the program will be immersed in transformational business practices and gain new insights, creativity and confidence in design thinking and strategic management.
Learn more about Boise State University’s online MBA program.