Design Thinking for Business Example

Let’s take an example I have been a part of many many times: a reorg. When I’ve been part of it, someone makes a new org chart, shows it to other execs, who complain and try to land grab, and then it is implemented, everyone is profoundly annoyed for awhile, some things drift backwards, and we’re back to business as usual. It’s essentially “waterfall.”

Now let’s say someone did learn Design Thinking, and at least remembers the process. This brave Junior exec — I’ll call her Mary — decides she’ll start with context. She finds out WHY the CEO thinks a reorg is needed. She talks to people throughout the org to learn what works and what doesn’t work. She also reads up on different theories of organization, such as holocracies. She reaches out to some people in different kinds of orgs, perhaps using Linkedin or emailing former colleagues.

Right now she is forming some opinions, and getting excited by doing something new, like a flat org like Google. But, instead of drawing a chart, she enters the synthesis phase to make sense of all the data. She then discovers that while some disciplines work well flat, others thrive with hierarchy. (obviously I’m making this up, I haven’t done the research.) She is surprised by what she discovers, which is the point of doing rigorous analysis, and inspired.

Mary now models several kinds of org structures, including trying to make the worst one she can imagine as well as her favorite. She socializes this models with people at various levels of the org.

Mary discovers there are a few teams who are open to trying to pilot a different kind of org. Now she can prototype the leading models.

Maybe the models, work with a few tweaks, and she can get a few more orgs to try the new version of the org structure. This leads to more iteration, more adoption. Finally the CEO mandates that the stragglers join in.

Mary is working like a designer. And when you work like a designer long enough, you end up thinking like one. And all problems will yield to your relentless and thoughtful assault.

Designing business, and the business of design.

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