‘Design thinking’ is one of those buzz words in the business world. Business professionals who use it imbue it with a sense of wonderment and awe, likening it to a magical process to be envious of. But, what does this flashy catch phrase really mean?

In The Design of Business, Roger Martin says that companies favour analytical thinking, which relies on pre-existing knowledge and leaves little space for change. When organizations struggle to find the next big thing, they often spend time and money on this dissatisfying approach. Design thinking, however, balances the creative with the analytical enabling innovation.

Business gurus like Martin, even Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg have evangelized the value of design. But, just because industry leaders preach design, it doesn’t mean design thinking is novel. Designers have always been thinking.

At Pivot, Design is Design Thinking.

Rather, it’s thinking, sketching, collaborating, and doing. It’s a process. It involves understanding the intended user experience to craft meaningful results. It’s where designers use their breadth of experience, coupled with strategic methods, to discover creative solutions for problems. We don’t just make things look pretty (although, we’re good at that too).

Here are 3 examples of how Design (with a capital ‘D’) — not just Design Thinking — can make huge improvements to your organization.

1. Design is a process

Designers need to be involved at the get go; we need to be a part of the entire problem solving process — that’s why the Informed Design process is Pivot’s backbone. When we first meet with clients, we’re not focused on a solution. Rather, we strive to learn as much as we can about their organization, marketplace, audience and context of use. Once we understand, we take a step back and begin developing the design solution.

Case: We’ve begun a mentorship program called Pivot Labs. We work collaboratively with start-ups to help incubate their ideas. We engage them in our design thinking process to develop strategies that better position their new business. The design thinking process allows for more creativity and innovation, which help start-ups stand out in competitions, and later, in market. Even start-ups benefit from a design process that is “built-in” rather than “added-on”.


2. Design de-risks

 As designers, we like to test our solutions before implementing them. By prototyping early, you’re able to see the solution in action and gain an opportunity to alter any shortcomings. Testing early, and with purpose, in the context of your user goals can minimize risk (and maximize potential) prior to launch.

Case: Peter Smart saw a huge flaw in airline boarding passes. Their UX design was negligible, leading to passenger confusion at airports. He set out to redesign the boarding pass on his website. His site shows how groundbreaking ideas can easily be tested with quick, lo-fidelity prototypes. Coincidentally, last year, U.K. budget airline EasyJet started using simple, mobile boarding passes at a handful of European airports. Passengers could check-in online and download their boarding pass directly their iPhone Passbook. The pilot program was successful and EasyJet continues to expand it today.


3. Design is strategic

 While design thinking enables you to approach a problem with an open mind, the design solution is never random. It’s also never static.

Through strategic analysis, we develop design solutions based on your audiences’ wants and needs. But it’s important to know that proper design solutions often come with a larger investment of time in order to take proper advantage of the process. Good Design goes beyond the quick fix, bandage solution.

Case: The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer approached us for a quick microsite design. They needed an offshoot from their main website to profile issues in cancer research and care. Once we engaged them in the Informed Design process, we discovered a better strategy. Instead of developing a static single page site, we created a monthly digest microsite of curated content. The dynamic site positions the organization as a thought leader in the field of cancer knowledge transfer. It allows them to better showcase their content and garners more traffic and social media shares than a simple microsite.


Design solutions allow you to build cohesive strategies that move your business forward.

Yes, we can suggest you spruce up your website, but a designer might also advise you to improve your brand, messaging and overall user experience for maximum benefit. However, the best advice we can give is that by working with designers, you’ll be engaged in a collaborative, creative process. You’ll gain an “outside-in” perspective that will help you to derive those more innovative solutions.



Read more about the “outside-in” perspective in the Designer as Generalist article.


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