Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 20, 2011 4:14 PM

Embrace The Design Thinking Mentality

How do you truly push ideas to the right space? How do you truly re-invent the industry you serve?

It's easy to get analytical. It's easy to look at the raw data. It's also (somewhat) easy to look at how things have been, and think about how to push that thinking just a little bit further. The big, massive and hairy ideas usually don't come from that kind of mental framework. More often than not, when you look at something new, it has been imagined and developed by someone who is (truly) an artist in what they do. They act as a designer or architect in thinking about things with a fresh perspective and from a different angle. They usually do this with their brains... and with their hands.

Living it. Breathing it. Feeling it.

I have become fascinated (and somewhat obsessed) with the notion of design thinking and how it applies to business. Here's the Wikipedia definition of design thinking: "Design Thinking is a methodology for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result. It is the essential ability to combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs and drive business success. Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process based around the 'building up' of ideas. There are no judgments early on in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation in the ideation and prototype phases. Outside the box thinking is encouraged in these earlier processes since this can often lead to creative solutions."

Leave it to Wikipedia to remove all emotion and sentiment from something... but the definition fits.

How many people think Twitter is stupid? How many people think Facebook is useless? How many people think that YouTube is a waste of time? And, this is long after their proven success (I'll define "success" here as something that has been adopted and is used by a mass of people). Imagine what was said to the designers of those platforms as they were working through the initial prototypes and beta versions? If people feel that way now about these platforms, imagine what the inventors were being told as they tinkered with the early versions?

Design thinking can free your business.

Sit down with a two-year-old and watch them create (this notion was put in my head by C.C. Chapman at a recent Third Tuesday event where he was discussing the book, Content Rules, which he co-authored with Ann Handley from MarketingProfs). Kids naturally create content (out of anything) and they live and breathe within this design thinking mentality. Design thinking is a part of who we are and (much like creativity) it is slowly stripped away from us as we socialize within the constraints and constructs of the educational system and what those who have walked before us consider to be the social norm (i.e. prim and proper).

Great ideas comes from re-thinking everything in terms of design. 

If you have yet to read Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, you should (it was published in 2003). Creativity in our new economy is critical to our success. The development and nourishment of cultural initiatives is a well. We're going to see a growing rise and need for design thinking in business too and these worlds continue to collide. Those building their business in the Marketing industry should pay even closer attention to how design thinking can help build their business models.

Looks, feels and sounds interesting... doesn't it?

By Mitch Joel