Design thinking

Last week, the topic was the differences between manufacturing and creating. Those of you who were able to attend last Friday’s presentation on Design Thinking by Roger Martin, were privileged to hear a much more eloquent and thought provoking description of the same topic. No wonder. In 2011, he was named by Thinkers 50 as the sixth top management thinker in the world and In 2010, he was named by Business Week as one of the 27 most influential designers in the world. Last time I checked, I didn’t make either list. During his talk he described Design Thinking as the ability to connect the abstraction of creativity with the concrete realities of commerce. Design thinking facilitates the transformation of mysteries (uncertainties) to heuristics (theories and hunches) to algorithms (manufacturing).

That’s what designers do and what I hope you learn from this class.

Mr. Martin also coauthored an article with former CEO of P&G, A. G. Lafley, that appeared in the September issue of Harvard Business Journal. In this article, they outline a process for developing corporate growth strategies by marrying data analysis with creative thinking. At the core of the process is the focus on identifying different strategic choices vs. the absolute definitive solution.

And that is what your class projects are all about, identifying different strategic choices. I don’t want you to necessarily identify the correct answer to a branding problem, but a choice could be made to improve a brand. A kind of “what if?” design and branding solution.

What if the U. S. Postal Service got into electronic email?

What if Country Music Channel focused on connecting older generations with younger?

What if Sears focused on functional products vs. jewelry and high fashion?

Each of these scenarios is valid choices that the companies could make. What these projects do is make them easier to evaluate by bringing them to life visually and verbally.

So I encourage you to put on your Design Thinking hat and turn mysteries (how do I fix this brand) into heuristics (what if we did this?) so that they could be evaluated for the potential to be an algorithm (manufacturing and mass production). I’ll go into greater depth tonight on Mr. Martins presentation and am eager to see the progress each team has made since last week.


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