Design Thinking: a foundation for Business Innovation

“Innovate or Die” is a popular expression among thought leaders to describe the economic and cultural climate we now do business in.  Technology’s impact on people and business continues to evolve the way we communicate, work and live at a disruptive pace.  Businesses need to respond by innovating their business models and experimenting with new methods of doing business.

Innovation today requires a creative way of thinking, Design Thinking.  We need a foundation to experiment with new ideas that apply emerging tools and models to existing methods of doing business.  Design thinking is not new, though its popularity has grown in the digital age as a practical methodology for leveraging emerging technologies and modernizing business models.

Applying design thinking to innovation adopts a solution-focused mindset that combines empathy, rationality and creative insights into business, technology and people.  This is important because integrating emerging technologies is simply not enough to achieve competitive advantage and sustainability.  We must not only innovate the tools we use, but the methods in which we use them.  We must understand that current business cultures and practices can be a barrier to innovation.  We need to recognize that consumers are more tech-savvy and social than ever before.  We need to enable people as much as we enable the business.

Design Thinking model illustrating the innovation zones and relationships between business, people and technology:

Design Thinking Model

Popular words of caution, “It’s not about the technology…” reminds us to be empathetic to be innovative.  Empathetic to who? People. The people that work for your business and the people that buy your products and services.  When we understand how culture is evolving inside and outside the business, when we understand the behaviors of consumers, we will be better equipped to innovate.

The challenge today is to break free from our comfort zone to unlearn and rethink how we do business and foster new competitive advantage.  Our world is in a state of great change, we need to take a step back and be willing to open our mindsets.  I believe the methodologies of Design Thinking can be applied to business innovation and guide leaders in the right direction.  There is as much opportunity as there is threats in the digital age and businesses will either “Innovate or die.”

Part 2 – Design Thinking: methods to business innovation


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