It's a fair question and one that I actually hadn't been asked until just before Christmas. I was speaking with a lovely guy who owns a national retail business here in Australia after attending the baptism of a mutual friend’s baby.
Our conversation went something like this…
Him ‘So what do you do for a living?’
Me ‘I help businesses innovate and solve problems. The area is called Design Thinking and the approach I use is called Human-Centred Design.’
Him ‘What is that?’
Me ‘Design Thinking is the use of design process to solve problems in fields other than design and Human-Centred Design is a combination of Design Thinking and a process for capturing insights from the people you are designing for. The goal is to create embraceable innovation that understands and solves root problems.’
Him ‘Sounds interesting but why would a business choose to use a designer for things like innovation or problem-solving? I mean wouldn't they be more likely to engage some kind of business consultant?’
Me ‘Great question!’
I have kept this quote printed on a piece of yellow paper on the wall next to my desk for the last three years and it occurred to me that it really answers my new friend's question.
The design process learned through a solid design education is continually honed and evolved and over time gives designers the confidence and flexibility to tackle any kind of problem. A thoughtful and well trained designer can create solutions as unique as the problems they seek to answer. While being versed in business best practise guidelines and formulas is incredibly useful they can't help differentiate a product or service in an original way. The design process by it's very nature creates opportunity for innovation.
If I were to be asked the question today ‘Why would I use a designer to help my business innovate?’ my answer would be threefold:
- Abstract/conceptual thinking
The purpose of the design process is to make unseen connections and combine ideas to solve problems.
- Communicating complexity
Getting conceptual ideas and innovative thinking across the line requires clarity and simplicity. The design process visualises information making new ideas accessible.
Imagination allows the design process to look at problems from multiple perspectives finding solutions that empathise with the people you are designing for. The design process encourages imaginative, divergent thinking and dreaming to create new opportunities while also allowing designers to be comfortable with the unknown.
The design process, Design Thinking and Human-Centred Design are however not simply the domain of designers. They are tools that can and should be learned by everyone. IDEO.org in partnership with Acumen offer a free 6 week introduction to Human-Centred Design on the NovoEd platform which I highly recommend for you and your team. Otherwise Hart Black is due to launch workshops to do just this in the coming months. Watch this space.