Design Thinking

Research Design Thinking

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Research Title

The Use of Design Thinking for Business Strategy and the Impact of Managerial Creativity in Different Middle Eastern and European Companies

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Research Problem

In this competitive business environment it is required for the firms to make regular innovations in their products and services to remain competitive in the market. In relation to this, it is challenging for the professionals to handle the today’s challenging technological and competitive environment (DAS, 2016). For this, professionals need to have certain skills like design thinking skills and managerial creativity that play an important role in the success and growth of an organization. Design thinking is required for the organizations to bring innovation and develop competitive position over rivals (Carlgren et al., 2016). It is important for the firms and professionals to understand the concept of design thinking that may be helpful to frame better strategies to achieve competitive advantage.

1.2 Research aim & questions

The aim is to analyze the viability of design thinking for business depending on the purpose of its use in Middle Eastern and European Companies. The below research questions are answered on completion of this study:

  • What is design thinking and managerial creativity? How is the process undergone?
  • What are some of the different companies that have used design thinking in Middle East and Europe? For what purpose?
  • Is the use of design thinking effective for such companies? Does it ensure a viable business strategy? Is the improvement perceived in the short term? Does effectiveness relate to type of industry?
  • What is the next step for design thinking and how managerial creativity could be perceived in the future?

The above main research questions on which this project and research is based upon are answered. The questions are answered by academic research on existing literature review, interviews and opinions of industry professionals, and interviews and surveys in companies from different industries and different sectors that have implemented design thinking or plan to implement it in the future. In this, the information is gathered from all levels of organizational structure or all the levels involved.

1.3 Key definitions

Design thinking is a process where the end goal is clearly known but the benefit is on the creativity of the process (Dijksterhuis, 2017).

1.4 Identification of the key variables

The below variables are considered in this research to determine the impact of design thinking and managerial creativity:

Independent variables:  Design thinking and managerial creativity

Dependent variables: Customer relationship management, organizational change and corporate strategy

This research assesses the impact of adaptation of Design thinking and managerial creativity on Customer relationship management, organizational change and corporate strategy.

1.5 Significance of the research and the how the knowledge gap is being addressed

This research is based on the significance of design thinking as a tool for business strategy and impact of managerial creativity. This study considers different case studies in Different Middle Eastern and European Companies to determine the relevance of design thinking and managerial creativity to achieve success. Professionals can acknowledge the design thinking and use it to develop better strategies to achieve high success. Apart from this, implications of managerial creativity can be significant for the firms to develop competitive advantage in the market. Readers can assess design thinking by showing and evaluating results of companies that have implemented design thinking in their culture.

This research is important for developing the concepts related to design thinking and managerial creativity in business. It is also crucial to understand how the design thinking can be helpful to develop a viable business strategy. In addition, this study provides generalized results because it focuses on different industries from different sectors that have implemented design thinking and adapted managerial creativity in their culture and part of their organizational structure. The research outcomes can be helpful for other industries to know how design thinking can be useful for their business and beneficial to achieve competitiveness. There are many reasons why a company would use design thinking and the purpose behind its use might differ greatly from one industry to another. Design thinking might be effective in one industry more than the other, or depending on the purpose of why it is used. This question is answered by evaluating the results of specific companies of many industries that have implemented design thinking, and assessing the impact that it had on their strategy. Furthermore, interviews and surveys are done to companies, company heads, and industry professionals. Design thinking is widely used in different industries. This question would be answered by academic research on existing literature of how design thinking was applied to different industries for what it was used. Surveys to industry professionals are effective to identify business trends and assess where different industries are going the relevance of design thinking in their growth.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This research chapter emphasise on the theoretical concept of design thinking, its process, use, and adoption of design thinking and concepts related to managerial creativity such as culture and impact in organisations. The part analyse each research question by reviewing the existing market research in area of design thinking and managerial creativity conducted by other researchers, theorists and field academicians. Additionally, in this chapter of the research, the effectiveness of the impact of managerial creativity, design thinking use and viability for business strategy is discussed in different industries and sectors in the context of Middle East and European regions. Along with this, future of design thinking and perceived managerial creativity are also discussed. The review of existing literature offers a clear theoretical framework to the researcher to understand and conduct the research to determine the design thinking use for business strategy and managerial creativity impact in different companies in Middle Eastern and European regions. This chapter has helped the researcher to develop a theoretical understanding about the research topic.

2.2 Concept of Design Thinking (DT)

Design thinking is an emerging field in the design practices. According to Müller and Thoring (2012), design thinking constitutes the exploration and development of creative strategies in the designing domains utilized by designers. Brown and Katz (2011) define design thinking as an approach, tool and principle to solve complex problem by bringing designers. In the words of Kimbell (2011), design thinking is a human oriented innovation process that focuses on collaboration, observation, business analysis, idea visualisation, prototyping and learning.  Thus, it can be said that design thinking methodology is useful to develop innovative solution for challenging problems by incorporation of human interests, values and concerns in the process of design. However, the various definitions by authors indicate that a general accepted definition is yet to become known among the advocates of design thinking and its practitioners. The concept of design thinking as a new creative problem solving methodology is well suited to cite business complexity, innovation, and creativity and growth decisions to improve the outcomes of the business.

2.3 Managerial creativity

Managerial creativity is one of the essential skills required by manager in the 21st century to arrive at appropriate strategic decisions.  Fillis and Rentschler (2010) viewed managerial creativity to be dynamic in nature which is affected by individual factors, risk preferences and capabilities. The author elaborates managerial creative behaviour inspire to craft different levels of creativity. The views of Carlgren et al. (2016) also discuss the general intelligence, personality domain, divergent thinking and the cognitive ability of an individual are different criteria to form managerial creativity. On the different side, Liedtka (2015) argues creativity of managers as one of the key cognitive abilities in the design process theory. It can be said that in every design creativity has been a prime feature to arrive at unique solution.

2.3.1 Impact of managerial creativity

2.4 Process of Design Thinking

The CEO and president of IDEO of an innovative and design firm, Tim Brown states the process of design thinking begins with gathering new thinking to discover the business and individual requirement. The past solution is studied to generate ideas, this is followed by prototyping phase to make idea tangible and inspire towards action (Gruber et al., 2015). According to Gasparini (2015), the design thinking process is a systematic course of innovation that prioritise empathy of user desires to fully comprehend problem to develop creative and effective solution. Roberts et al. (2016) describes the process of design thinking to start with analytical phase which making enquiries and empathic engagement with user that is influenced by product/service experience which require amendments. This is followed by a synthetic phase which requires working with participants to find alternative ways and review the generated idea to derive desired results till best scenario is identified which fulfils maximum needs and can be accomplished within financial limit set and specified time. Prototyping and testing stages forms the later stages where multiple ideas are converted from intangible to action form on trail basis. The trials are critically evaluated to reach an optimised solution for large scale implementation.

Design Thinking

Figure 1: Common process of Design Thinking (Vetterli et al., 2013)

2.5 Use and importance of design thinking tools

The design thinking has been utilised for effective decision making based of future needs of customers using element of empathy and experimentation to provide innovative solutions. In this context, Gruber et al. (2015) specify that use of design thinking has reduced the dependency on historical data or risky intuitive assumptions.  The DT tools draws from designer toolkit to integrate technologies and individual needs to fulfil requirement for success of the business. Kimbell (2012) state that design thinking is used to transform organisation structure for product development, service innovation and transformation of processes and business strategies. Roberts et al. (2016) mention the use of DT in handling ideas in a manageable way and introducing new ways of thinking to address complex problems. Another relevant feature of DT use is that it can be applied within any industrial sector to encourage creativity, innovation and critical thinking. In support of this, the study of Carlgren et al. (2016)  highlight the use of DT in government agencies, healthcare sectors and financial sects apart from technology or design companies. In the context of its relevance, Müller and Thoring (2012) underline the DT as an inspiration for innovation which is demanded in complex business landscape. The author also mention it significance in identifying the core issues by braking into small facets to resolve the problem. Johansson‐Sköldberg et al. (2013) put forwards the importance of design thinking as an innovation tool in the business and to track the success of business in competitive landscape. Gasparini (2015) suggests that the approach of design thinking is significant as it emphasises on end user as central entity during the designing process. Thus, the solution fits into user needs to create better experience. On the different side, Johansson‐Sköldberg et al. (2013) found that design thinking relevance in understanding user needs in developing new products/services as it exists with people and eliminate the risk of complete business failure. Mintrom and Luetjens (2016) highlight the use of design thinking process in developing understanding of how users and customers experience product and services to enhance customer value and development of business policies.  It can be understood that the relevance of design thinking is to fulfil the need of creative tools and approaches to address complex problems from human centred view. It also fulfils the need of individual as think like designer to look for desirability, technologically feasible and economically viable options that relates to best scenario in business.

2.6 Adoption of design thinking practices/principles in organisation

Brown and Wyatt (2010) points that adaptation of design thinking in organisation require a cultural shift.  Similarly, Gruber et al. (2015) study emphasise cultural transformation for successful application of design thinking principles.  For instance, IBM in adoption of design thinking approach has taken a number of steps to support its concept within the organisation culture. It leads to employee empowerment and dedicated time and space in promoting managerial creativity and supporting innovative ideas. The study finding of Gasparini (2015) reveals that design thinking leads to a cultural change in organisation to human centred working way by empathy with team members and users along with increase interaction towards co-creation of value.teh study also underline leadership to develop a DT culture It can be noted that adaptation of DT practices for various purpose require linking with empathy, collaboration and innovative thinking. In context of organisation structure, Brown and Wyatt (2010) recognises the need of for restructuring organisation to support innovation and creativity as innovation and creativity is impacted by the organisational structure and hierarchy system. Gruber et al. (2015) identified flatter organisations type of structure presents a viable option for the organisation to deploy DT approach across the organisation.  According to Bjögvinsson et al. (2012), the flatter organisation emphasises on communication along with collaboration and presents a challenge to the traditional models of organisation management. It can be noted that flatter organisation adapts to emerging set of technologies to for easy collaboration and continuous flow of information. This type of structure also support employ contribution in innovation practices. Thus, it can be said that flatter organisation structure are practically feasible for organisation to incorporate design thinking methodology.

2.7 Design thinking in adoption by different companies in different sectors

Many medium to large organisation have adopted the design thinking methodology to generate new ideas and resolutions to complex problems. This human centred approach has transformed the business strategy, working style, culture to provide solutions to evolve with better product/services leading to growth of their business.  Kimbell (2012) viewed that large organisations have realised the purpose and relevance of DT to unlock creativity in mangers to push the bottom line to accomplish business outcomes.  Bjögvinsson et al. (2012) studied that to adapt the design thinking approaches many large technology organisations are investing in innovation labs while mid-sized organisations are working with design firms to take their guidance in implementation of practices of design thinking. For instance, IBM has been implementing design thinking practice by establishment of an in-house innovation lab and assisting other companies as well to tackle complex problems by developing human centred solutions. The members of the organisation collaborate to generate brainstorming ideas and make use of post-it notes on whiteboard. Johansson‐Sköldberg et al. (2013) highlight the adoption of DT in different sectors of financial services, insurance, healthcare and education for the purpose of attracting customers, budgeting and investment decisions. The author also emphasise the use of the design thinking is used in the project management to ensure the success of the project by developing understanding of the purpose and benefits that creative solution bring to users. For instance, the insurance company, mass mutual in collaboration with design firm, IDEO developed a solution to resolve the problem to attract individual under 40 to buy insurance policies (Liedtka, 2015).

Middle East and European regions

The concept, approaches and principles of design thinking is being employed many business and industrial sector in the Middle East and European countries. According to Heintz (2006),  Middle eastern countries have been putting effort to establish a design culture. In educational sector, the design system has been adapted to make the learners aware of the design thinking tools and encourage developing different way of thinking and working though design education. This has led to changes in the educational methods to develop a design community. Similarly, Kimbell (2012) states that in Middle East countries like Syria and Jordan, the design thinking is being utilised to expand economic opportunities in the communities and global private sector.

2.8 Future of design thinking in business and perceived managerial creativity

The design thinking has emerged as a problem solving methodology and increased the opportunities for managerial creativity and innovation practices which are essential for business to survive in changing business landscape with increasing competition. In this context, Bjögvinsson et al. (2012) viewed design thinking as a necessary approach to survive competition by small, medium and even start-up companies.  Differently, Kolko (2015) argues that design thinking will increase its acceptance and adaptation by business to enhance the desirability of products and improve product usability.  Similarly, Johansson‐Sköldberg et al. (2013) points that design thinking will help in simplification and modernisation of the software products in the field of information technology.  It can viewed that DT in coming years will be adaptable that would enable the companies to provide better customer experience at every contact point.

Johansson‐Sköldberg et al. (2013) also put forward that the future of design thinking can be viewed as translation of designer way of thinking transformed to a more widely accepted version in the organisation management. The author also pointed that design thinking will be frequently equated to managerial creativity as an effort to boost the creativity of the managers.  The design thinking will be grown which will be kept in closer association with the ideas and processes supported by business managers and consultants.


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