All our Careers start Somewhere
For me it started with designing a pair of sunglasses, for Barbie. Then came pagers*, phones and photocopiers. My job as an aspiring product designer was to make them easier to use and more contemporary. This was the early 90s and the design industry was booming, an era of personalities, signature aesthetics and high fees. Design studios emerged as hallowed spaces that worked without interference and the responsibility of the client was to figure out how to make it. (*pagers: a pocket sized device that received text messages. An expensive one-way sms. Imagine!)
Then, after receiving a production sample of a project for a national brand which bore little resemblance to what I thought was the final design, my ego deflated and I realised I needed to learn a little more about what happened inside organizations.
Learning to love the Problem
I joined a Global FMCG in-house team. “How hard can it be to design a laundry detergent bottle?” I thought. Really hard, I learnt. The complexity of the problem was fundamentally different from anything I had previously come across. I now appreciated sitting in an agency had afforded me a luxury, the brief. All the information had been simplified so that I could dictate the aesthetics for Engineering. Not now. This project took me on a journey of understanding. From the consumer, the shopper, packaging materials, the manufacturing process, line speeds and filling, pallet efficiency, transportation and top load, store warehousing, shelf presentation, consumer use, post-use and, of course, financials. The list was exhausting, paralysing in fact. It seemed like there was good reason not to change anything. But it was also fascinating. I realised I needed to first understand the constraints to challenge them. I set about learning to find a ‘way-in’, a strategy, for designing new that would solve multiple problems. This was a business challenge not a just a creative one.
From ‘Creative’ to ‘Creativity’
I had to shift how I worked, from being ‘the Creative’ to harnessing the ‘collective creativity’ of a multi-functional team of experts; R&D, Finance, Sales, Brand, Product Supply, Packaging Development and external suppliers. I needed to understand what they considered as problems and possibilities. Through the design process the consumer was the north star but the exploration of opposing ideas and opposing constraints came from the trust in the team. It was not only what was learnt that proved so valuable, but trust built advocacy for integrating solutions back into the business.
The power of Integrative Thinking
I now recognise this approach of exploring opposing ideas and constraints as ‘Integrative Thinking’. Termed by Roger Martin, former Dean of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and leading advocate of how design thinking can help business leaders design strategy and embrace change.
Power of a Prototype
This approach includes use of prototypes to quickly identify what needs to be true for an idea to work and learn if barriers are real or perceived. Done iteratively teams learn and adapt until everyone has a shared understanding of the problem to be solved. That is often the ‘ah-ha’ moment when teams can feel the potential of an idea simply by how the problem has been defined.
Applying Design thinking to Business
I now apply these same principles working with Leaders to solve tough challenges; from Strategy Renewal, Improving ROI on Acquisitions, Building Innovation Capability to Organizational Change. These challenges are often ambiguous in scope. Leaders have a clear sense of what success looks like but not how to get there, which is exactly why the process of rapid iteration also works so well for business challenges.
Effectively engaging others not only builds better solutions, faster, it empowers those who know your business best. It gives them a voice and a mechanism to transform a thought to an idea, to a prototype, that can help grow your business.
Harness your Collective Creativity
At Hello Creativity! We believe the creative capacity of teams is extraordinary but so often left untapped. We are passionate about helping you harness that collective creativity to solve complex problems and build a Thriving Organization.
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Picture credits Mel Poole/ Unsplash