Design Thinking Case Study: Internal Process
The three articles provided to inform the use of Design Thinking in an organization are 1) Design Thinking: Organizational Learning in VUCA Environments, which discusses using design thinking in a volatile, complex environment; 2) Validating a Design Thinking Strategy: Merging Design Thinking and Absorptive Capacity to Build a Dynamic Capability and Competitive Advantage, which presents the two different streams in design thinking and how to merge them; and 3) Measuring the impact of design, service design and design thinking in organizations on different maturity levels, which provides a clear road map for assessing maturity level to track and measure progress in the results of design thinking.
1) Design Thinking: Organizational Learning in VUCA Environments
- Organizational learning is an incremental activity that builds layers of knowledge upon each other.
- However, today's digital economy environments, defined by the acronym VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), are highly disruptive and can leave incrementally focused organizations with serious challenges.
- To respond to the disruptive environment, organizations are looking to pioneer new frameworks, models, processes, and structures to engage with the customer and to use design thinking to solve complex and often ambiguous problems form the point of view of the customer.
- The authors saw the need for research on the topic of how to use design thinking in volatile, complex environments.
- This research report discusses using design thinking as an organizational learning process to head-off the disruption of the VUCA environment.
- Documents the perspectives of subject matter experts on how design thinking can be used to enhance learning capacity in VUCA environments.
- Systems thinking deals with complexity by overcoming learning barriers, thereby allowing firms to effectively navigate dynamic external environments.
- The report provides in-depth insights about organizational contingency, which is identified as "the effectiveness of design thinking being contingent on organizational structure, people and culture."
2) Validating a Design Thinking Strategy: Merging Design Thinking and Absorptive Capacity to Build a Dynamic Capability and Competitive Advantage
- Design thinking has been seen as a dynamic capability to redesign internal processes.
- Scholars have identified the existence of vague definitions and a lack of a theoretical foundation for design thinking. They then determined the need for more studies to fully understand the impact of design thinking on organizations and their processes.
- A recent theoretical framework has linked design thinking as a dynamic capability with the need to facilitate the absorptive capacity of external knowledge.
- Put simply, before an organization can seek to improve its processes dynamically, it must be able to ensure the people who are doing the designing have a clear picture of the external world with which the process will be interacting.
- The application of dynamic capabilities and absorptive capacity are "substantially similar in their recognition that organizations must be customer-focused and have the capability to acquire and commercialize knowledge external to the organization."
- This study draws on both dynamic capability and absorptive capacity to create a theoretical foundation for the use of design thinking in strategy, organization structure, internal process design, and organizational learning.
- The first benefit is the confirmation that design thinking can dynamically integrate the external into an internal process that requires management interaction.
- Another benefit is the descriptions by participants of the problem with over focusing on tools to redesign processes, and the fear and discomfort employees feel when asked to master these tools. The participants thought by the time that mastery was achieved, competitive advantage was lost.
- The third benefit outlined in this report is the necessity of integrating the customer into the prototyping and integration process and the value that accrues to the organization in the streams of both dynamic capability and absorptive capacity.
3) Measuring the Impact of Design, service design and design thinking in organizations on different maturity levels
- Whenever an organization is looking at using design thinking for organizational improvement, it is critical to understand the maturity of the organization not only in that specific subject matter but also in the ability to do design thinking.
- This report describes three different frameworks for assessing maturity and then chooses one to perform an organizational assessment.
- A) Design Ladder describes four different maturity levels of using Design in organizations.
- B) Design Value Scorecard tracks the maturity of Design (ranging from ad hoc utilization to optimized, proactive processes) against three areas of utilization.
- C) Design Maturity Matrix has five maturity levels (initial, adopted, managed, integrated, and driven) that are assessed relative to five different areas in organizations.
- The Design Ladder was chosen as the framework for mapping results in this study.
- This report provides a clear road map for any organization to determine the maturity level of the organization.
- It also lays out a framework to measure the design impact in three separate areas. 1) Feature turnaround time; 2) Internal satisfaction for the design project; 3) Contribution to innovation maturity in the whole organization.
- The conclusions outline the metrics and the focus to be used at the four different levels in the design ladder.
- As a whole, this document is an excellent how-to for any organization looking to implement design thinking.