Digital Strategy & Innovation

The countless fields of use of Design Thinking

Digital innovation has put the spotlight on Design Thinking, the methodology that combines quantitative techniques with intuitive thinking, deeply transforming the way it was originally formulated. Users have multiplied over recent years in a variety of contexts. According to Politecnico di Milano experts the most promising Digital Transformation project designs include User Experience, startups, education, and consulting.

Design Thinking is an approach to innovation based on the ability to expertly combine analytical abilities and creative aptitude. Innovating through Design Thinking means combining methodologies and quantitative techniques with more concise and intuitive inference processes. Even if Design Thinking is not an entirely new approach, in the past 10 years it has been transformed many times over, and if on one hand this has made it very difficult to define it accurately, on the other it is also what made it interesting to a growing number of players beyond the scope of design . The arrival of digital technology, in its various forms, has accelerated this phenomenon and enabled further transformations of Design Thinking. The Observatory we manage studies such transformation in detail. Following, in this article we outline what we expect will register the greatest excitement over the next 12 months.

The pervasiveness of digital technology in our daily lives has progressively demanded greater attention and specific expertise in designing digital solutions that in addition to being just functional and effective should also be pleasant and engaging. The attitude at the base of Design Thinking – aptly blending analytical and intuitive thinking – immediately appeared to be a good lever to help face such challenges. Various Design Agencies such as Frog Design or Fjord have thus leveraged their competences to deal with these challenges and the requirements brought forth by the design of digital experiences in an original way.

The synergies and affinities with the Lean Startup approach enabled design thinking to become the point of reference for emerging businesses, particularly digital related ones. To this regard, the book by Jake Knapp, formerly with Google Ventures, highlights the potential of the approach in driving the planning and launch of startups. The Design Sprint methodology is proposed as the combination between Design Thinking and Lean Startup: when the book was launched, Google Ventures organized an interesting video interview between Tim Brown, author of “Change by Design”, Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup”, and Knapp.

The pervasiveness of digital transformation does not impact solely products and services offered by the most advanced companies, but requires to radically rethink the processes and organizational structures enabling such products and services to be designed, implemented and distributed. The interest of management consulting firms and of the big software developers in Design Thinking highlights how this approach can support, with empathy and inclusion, very delicate organizational transformations. Organizations such as Deloitte Digital or PwC’s Experience Centres point out the evolutionary trend of Design Thinking in this direction.

Design Thinking is also approaching the world of education, at different levels and with different interpretations. If in Business Schools Design Thinking is becoming a practically indispensable subject, as claimed in an article in the Financial Times last June 22nd, the first adoption experiments of this approach are beginning to appear also within primary (elementary) schools in relation to the ability to creatively solve complex problems.

Claudio Dell’Era, Luca Gastaldi and Cabirio Cautela – Directors of the Design Thinking for Business Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano

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