Common Thread of Design, Service, Lean

The subject of Design Thinking and Service Design has become more and more prevalent in my thought process recently and many find those words somewhat fuzzy type thinking. But it is really targeted at people that want to become more humanistic in their way of thinking and from my viewpoint their sales and marketing process.

A recent podcast guest of mine, Tim Ogilvie, CEO of innovation strategy consultancy Peer Insight and co-author of a new book Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers when asked how to define Design Thinking said:

I’m trained as an engineer, and I grew up in the quality movement in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In the quality movement we use a method of thinking I would refer to as analytical thinking. You have a data set to work from and you reduce that data set to a series of insights, and you build potential new answers based on that. Design thinking is another problem solving approach that is a complement to analytic thinking.

Design thinking is perfect for situations where we’re looking at a future that doesn’t exist yet. Joe, if we’re trying to figure out a future that may or may not come into existence, we don’t have any source of data. And so, the analytic tools break down very quickly. Then as a practicing manager you think, “Well, I don’t have tools for that.”

Design thinking is the tools for that, to say, hey, we can actually prototype alternative futures. Rather than creating data for them, we can simply have target users experience those prototypes. We can observe from behaviors and preferences which ones are working better than others.

The core of what’s in a design thinking approach is extreme focus on the user and their experience; visualizing multiple options, testing those in the hands of the users, and iterating very quickly from less appealing options to more appealing options. It just relies on experimentation which analytic problem solving processes don’t need to rely on those as much because, in the world of analytics, we have source data from which to work.

I think you must be careful in defining an exact science to Design Thinking as it needs to remain very humanistic. However the iterative steps of exploration, creation, reflection and implementation are a very basic approach. There are other frameworks mentioned in the book, This is Service Design Thinking that include; identify-build –measure (Engine, 2009), insight-idea-prototyping-delivery (live work, 2009), discovering-concepting-designing-building-implementing (Designthinkers,2009), to mention just a few. Recently, I have came across IR4TD which has a cycle of idea generation-proof of concept-prototyping-commercialization.

As I reviewed these to put them into practice, I found myself going back the Lean principle of PDCA. Graham Hill had mentioned the concept of EDCA (Explore-Do-Check-Act). Graham was the head of CRM at Toyota Financial Services. He stated that:

Marketing in highly competitive markets is about exploring new propositions on the innovation fitness landscape. The environment determines where to start and complex marketing environments need EDCA. Complicated ones often start with PDCA ½.” EDCA = Explore, PDCA = Plan, SDCA = Standardize. Marketing Operations is all about moving along the EDCA>PDCA>SDCA pathway.

The concepts of Design Thinking, Service Design and Lean Marketing have very close resemblance and ties to each other. The acronyms at some point become meaningless. They are only important to the ones that compete on image and brand. The ones that compete in their customer arenas  can probably call anything they want.

Related Information:
Design Thinker exposed as Left Brain Dominant
How new is Service Dominant Logic and does it apply now?
Asking the right questions about Lean?
Service Design Thinking
Continuous Improvement Sales and Marketing Toolset

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