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We have to be growth minded to be design thinkers

Ian Dyason. 4 April 2021

Last month, Singapore Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran shared that design thinking "can convert uncertainty into possibility."

READ: ST Article "Design thinking focused on needs of people can help Singapore."

There is no doubt that design thinking, as a customer-centric problem solving tool, can help individuals, organisations and the government uncover new ways of solving old problems. The process takes on the agile and lean methodologies to problem-solving and has been credited by companies big and small in delivering new value to customers. In this disruptive age of Covid-19, there has not been a better time to embrace this methodology.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking uses a set of tools to help problem solvers see the situation from different perspectives, especially in the eyes of their customers (and "customers" here are defined very loosely), and come up with greater value proposition. The solutions are novel and meet an unmet need by the customer, while leading to organisational or business goals being met (such as value creation or revenue generation).

There are no predetermined methodologies for design thinking but there are three dominant models that are used. There is the three-step IDEO process comprising Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation; the four-question-step Liedtka et al methodology of What Is?, What If? , What Wows? and What Works?; and the Six-Sigma-esque IDEO process with five spaces, viz. Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. All these methodologies work in the same way by starting out in understanding how customers feel as they interact with one's products, services, statues, laws, down to ways to improve that, finally leading to ideas that have to be tested in the market. Indeed, design thinking as a process does not deign to know the answer to a problem, but applies the process of uncovering what actually is the situation, and then uses perspective shifting methodologies to come up with new and novel ideas, all the while testing them with the market in ever-widening circles. Of course, at any time, the idea may have to be reworked, pivoted or ditched in favour of a better solution. All these are par for the course of design thinking.

The short answer is that we all need to be growth minded before we can be design thinkers.

Which brings us to the question, what are the pre-requisites for one to be a good design thinker? The short answer is that we all need to be growth minded before we can be design thinkers. Let's see why...

Design thinking requires you to learn what your customers feel about your product or service

One cannot sit back and presume that one knows what the customer wants

Design thinking is a process of discovering what is happening, what if we did something or other, what wows the customers and what will work in the market. It is therefore a process of learning and discovering. If you do not have a learning mindset, it will be very difficult for you to actively become a design thinker. One cannot sit back and presume that one knows what the customer wants; one needs to go out there and learn what has changed with our customers. A Learning mindset is a fundamental pre-requisite of a design thinker.

READ: The growth mindset is also the learning mindset

Design thinking requires one to try all ways to find the right solution