Design thinking and learning from each other

Regular visitors of my blog might have noticed that I’ve participated in a conference about organizational democracy two weeks ago. Beside the fact that I still owe you some impressions from the forum itself (Yes, I’ve met (and talked to) Dan Pink, author of ‘A Whole New Mind’ in person as well as David Weinberger! ;-) since my return I’m still reasoning why I’ve enjoyed the forum so much?!

Well, I’ve realized (beside the fact the Traci Fenton set up a terrific team of volunteers) that it has been one of the rare events where I’ve spoken to a non design-related audience about design and design thinking. As a matter of fact the discussions about the purpose and power of design have been refreshingly positive in contrast to the very often self centric discussions about the ‘so misunderstood discipline’ of design which I’ve experienced in the past.

Simply spoken what I’ve tried was to make my point on why a design thinking perspective to problem solving might be relevant for their organization as well. Interestingly many listeners approached me after the talk and concluded: ‘Wow, this means I’m also a designer (link via Core77 via Steve)!’ Yes, but  …

By the same token Joseph Beuys once said: ‘Every human being is an artist, but not everything made by human beings is necessarily art’ this logic applies to the filed of design as well. However driven by our goal to spread the idea virus of ‘design thinking’ to the business side and by demonstrating the impact design can have on products, services and communication we have to embrace non designers and more precisely the management side rather than emphasizing the differences.

Call it serendipity, but interestingly two (traditionally) non-design organizations approached me via my blog within the last few days who are highly interested in the intersection of design thinking and management. The first organization invited me to Paris next week to join them in their kick-off phase of their ‘self-designing organization’ programme (more to be revealed soon). Highly interesting and relevant and I’m looking forward to learning more on how design thinking might connect with organizational change.

The second organization is ‘Business Model Design’ run by Alexander Osterwalder who running a blog on the topic as well. Alex and I had a very informative chat about his area of expertise ‘Business Model Design’ and he’s actually seeking for inspiration how to extend his thinking and benefit from the idea of ‘Design thinking’ in order to create a more holistic way of approaching business.

Alex actually assembled 9 building blocks (see the illustration here) from the literature which describe a business model (taken from his informative recent posting):

1. The value proposition of what is offered to the market;
2. The target customer segments addressed by the value proposition;
3. The communication and distribution channels to reach customers and offer the value proposition;
4. The relationships established with customers;
5. The core capacities needed to make the business model possible;
6. The configuration of activities to implement the business model;
7. The partners and their motivations of coming together to make a business model happen;
8. The revenue streams generated by the business model constituting the revenue model;
9. The cost structure resulting of the business model.

While reasoning about these blocks I find that many variables are so relevant for both areas business as well as design. Just try to benchmark your organization, your products and services, your communication with these blocks and you will learn why so many products/services/processes fail. I will definitively integrate these issues in my design management classes in the future; thanks Alex!

Fortunately Alex promised to write some deeper stuff on the relation between business model design and his understanding of design thinking in the near future and I’m looking forward to reading his ideas! In the meantime: What’s your idea on this? [Non-Designers are welcome as well ;-)]

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