Einstein was certainly right, with the rapid changes in society, the methods we had previously used to solve the problems we face are no longer effective. New ways of thinking are needed to design better solutions going forward. Design Thinking steps in with a bold new human-centered approach to radically change how we go about exploring problems and finding solutions to those problems.

New innovation approaches are needed to solve new kinds of problems

As we can see from the story of the boy and the truck, where experts were unable to find an immediate solution while a little boy was, the obvious or innovative solution does not always appear merely based on our expertise. That much needed creative spark, at times, seems locked down by our preconceived notions of what the problem is and what the solution should look like.

Left Brain or Right Brain?

The struggle between creative and logical thinking is an old one, which is yet to be fully understood even with scientific breakthroughs in neuro and cognitive science. It was thought that those who tend to be more analytical, logical and rational in nature, relied more heavily on the left side of their brains, while those who were more creative, expressive and emotional, relied more on the right side of their brains. This myth seems to have recently been busted, with new studies indicating both sides of the brain are involved in both creative and logical processes of all kinds and work together to provide a combined set of thinking processing and cognition tools which creates our overall experience.

Having the right mindsets, creating appropriate teams and setting up environments conducive to innovation to take place are 3 of the essential aspects of fostering successful innovation within companies, organization, and society at large.

The right mindsets for Innovation

One of the amazing things about Albert Einstein was the connection between his creative and analytical thinking. He was an extremely creative individual, deeply reflective of the human condition, weaknesses, and failings while at the same time years ahead of most in terms of his analytical thinking capacity. His ability to join between worlds of influence, merging creative thinking with intense analytical abilities brought about the breakthroughs he achieved as a thinker and a scientist.

The notion that creativity or “artistic” talent is only the domain of those gifted with these abilities, however, is one of the most inhibiting factors in our modern development. It is becoming a more widely held belief that creativity and lateral thinking can be learned, and with the implementation of the appropriate steps, process and mindset can be unleashed to solve some of the “wickedest” problems we find ourselves faced with. The challenge is that most modern corporations, organization, and institutional settings tend to kill creativity with an overly conformist notion of things.

We need to develop more open, collaborative and explorative cultures and mindsets in order for new thinking to come to the fore.

Collaborative Teams for Innovation

Previously, depending on one’s area of influence, to possess stronger creative (so-called right brain) or analytical (so-called left brain) abilities would have been actively encouraged as the specific role required.

Designers were expected to be purely creative and business analysts purely analytical. We now know that a healthy collaboration between the creative and logical ways of thinking tends to result in the holistic thinking required to understand and solve new kinds of multi-dimensional problems. This is also true for people working in multi-disciplinary teams, where teams possessing a range of thinking styles, expertise and experiences, come together to more effectively develop solutions than narrowly focused specialist individuals are able to when working alone.

Environments Conducive to Innovation

The environments we inhabit and activities we most engage in influence our thinking patterns, our understanding of things and our ability or lack thereof to innovate.

Have you ever asked yourself why companies like Google spend such an awful amount of money kitting out their workspaces with expensive toys and unconventional equipment? Or why large corporate firms clear space in their busy annual schedules to send their entire staff complement on team building getaways where they build rafts together, jump around in circles and behave like kids. There’s definitely method to their madness beyond merely creating a fun place to be. It’s about tapping into the type of thinking which results in breakthrough innovation as opposed to churning out more of the same cookie cutter patches to problems.

We need to create dynamic spaces both physically and metaphorically where people are able to embrace change, explore the unknown, experiment with radically new ways of thinking and work together collaboratively.

Since the disruptions in human development caused by the industrial revolution, analysts have been strategizing ways of streamlining just about every business, production and economic process imaginable with the aim of extracting the maximum benefit from the least amount of time and resources. While this may have had some degree of success on the level of productivity and efficiency, the recipe to that much-needed innovation within all sectors has been somewhat of a conundrum. This is where Design Thinking steps in with a bold new human-centered approach at radically changing how we go about exploring problems and finding solutions to those problems, helping us break out of the old molds we’ve become stuck in, to take a fresh look at the world around us.

Coping with Disruptions in Society

Besides the ongoing struggles between the analytical and creative worlds, other factors have dramatically disrupted the way we see, understand, experience and interpret the world around us. Technology is developing at such a rapid pace that job descriptions can barely keep up let alone entire industries. Consumers demand much more now that they are constantly switched on, always informed and obsessively sharing everything with their networks.

Focusing on Humans, not Users

In order to remain relevant, companies and organizations are also fighting a battle for attention on an unprecedented level. Besides the constant scrutiny and accountability, information overload is also reaching it’s peak. People are increasingly seeking out those products, services and organisations that they personally connect with more meaningfully. They are selecting the few options that speak directly to their needs and experiences. This has driven Human Centred Design approaches of all types to mushroom in the last few years. Approaches to business and social innovation are increasingly looking for alternatives to the old models of adding value, by focusing on human needs and experience as primary motivating factors.

Those who keep up with the pace of change will survive this phase in tact. Those who do not will most likely vanish in a similar fashion to the way startups and other companies which were absorbed into the black hole of the previous Dot Com Bubble did when it burst.

Innovative solutions need to be found to keep up with massive disruptions affecting Human Resources, Energy, Sustainability, Education, Economic Constraints, Political Instability and a whole plethora of other challenges which existing strategic & management practices and processes are unable to pick apart.

Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation is a book by Idris Mootee, focusing on the implementation of Design Thinking Methodology within business. Before unpacking exactly what Design Thinking is, The book outlines a number of disruptions in the business environment including new consumer behavior and expectations, forcing companies to rethink their every move.

This disruption has not been so kind to businesses operating by the rules of the old model. We don’t have to watch their ads anymore. We don’t believe their marketing hype anymore. We don’t want to eat their junk ingredients anymore. We don’t have to buy from their stores anymore. And we don’t want the best of them to just be profit machines anymore. We want more, when we want it, how we want it, and at the price we want it. – Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation 2013 – Indris Mootee Pg. 3

Innovate or be swept away with the tide

Idris Mootee uses the example of the study of weather systems where it was determined that even the slightest changes in atmospheric conditions may have dramatically varying results in the way weather patterns developed. The current climate of rapid change and upheaval is even more difficult to future forecast. We are unable to see what lies around the next corner let alone months or years down the line. This means we need a completely new and dynamic approach to innovation and strategic planning. Something less rigid that can quickly and easily adapt to the varying conditions we find ourselves in and those dramatic changes which lie around the next corner.

The abilities to rapidly understand and act on changes in our environments and changes in human behavior, are becoming crucial skills we are still developing and refining. Design thinking offers a means grappling with all this change in a more human centric manner.