December 19, 2016


Design Thinking: From Logic to Magic

Co-author: Sayani Ghosh

From “Good to Have” to “Must Have”

88% of Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955 have disappeared by 2014.

Forbes reports that fifty years ago, the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 firm was 75 years and today it is less than 15 years and declining. Whether it is a Consumer Electronics company that has realized that it is more about content and interaction than hardware, or the Network OEMs that must compete with small SDN/NFV start-ups; or the Automobile to Healthcare industry, we are in a time of great disruption.

An example of a company caught in this disruption is Intel. Intel in 2016 laid off 12,000 workers because of the declining PC revenues. What caused the decline of a company which was at the forefront of the microprocessor revolution?

It was not that Intel was caught sleeping. Intel was determined to maintain its edge and control on the market. It is famously known for its “Only the paranoid will survive” strategy. It was focused on making the fastest and the smallest and the most powerful microprocessor every year.

Intel didn’t realize its customers have moved from the PC to the Mobile; faster and powerful didn’t matter anymore. Power efficiency was the need of the hour and Intel had missed the big picture.

With Trends like Digitization, Automation, IoT and Big data, the race to make the cheapest and fastest is now over. The need of the hour is to “think” beyond the obvious.

How would a company redefine itself now with all this disruption happening, how will it continuously think beyond the usual? How will a company encourage its people to innovate? One thing is clear that innovations are not miracles and no company can afford to wait for such miracles to happen

For long, the business world has been constrained to linear thinking. Measuring ROIs, implementing Lean Processes, and Cost Benefit Analysis, to finding the best possible alternative but none of these will come in handy during these times. The question that arises now is whether there can be a process for inculcating innovativeness or looking at problems uniquely?

Design Thinking might be the answer

Design Thinking has been around for more than a decade; the term being first used in 1991. But its relevance in fields far removed from the creative echelons of art and advertising is becoming more relevant now. For many years, companies based their strategy majorly on historical data, often restricted by short-term financial gains. This approach worked in a static world, but in today’s fast changing scenario, this method is no more optimum. Designers, by nature, have a different approach towards any problem. Their brief is always to look at different scenarios and create new things. They often focus on the solutions considering the consumer’s perspective. This type of thinking process which holistically tries to solve a problem is termed as Design Thinking process.

This doesn’t mean Linear & Analytical Thinking is bad; its good at solving certain type of problems. But the problems we are trying to solve today increasingly require a different kind of toolkit.

To illustrate the difference between Traditional Problem Solving Vs Design Thinking, consider the following example from the book “Design for Growth”

The author speaks about Swisscom, where the engineers thought its customers would need a router with the latest technology and the intelligence to locate and choose the network that has the best access and coverage.

It found out that the biggest problem its customer had with the new router is that it looked ugly, and they didn’t want it. They did not want cables hanging out of it.

Swisscom realized that the solution was not about making the most advanced router, but it was about giving people access to the digital world, while at the same time, enabling it to be aesthetically appealing in their well-designed living rooms.

Left Brain


Left Brain

Solve Puzzles
Ex : How to tackle natural calamities (cyclones and storms)?
  Solve Mysteries
Ex: How to solve Global Warming?
There is a clear understanding of the problem itself   Might need to explore and build agreement even around the definition of the problem
A problem with straightforward solution with known set of actions   More difficult problem that requires more system thinking, prototyping, and piloting
Availability of data: several clear sources of analogous data, past data is an indicator of the future   Many unknowns, large & small, and past data is unlikely to help us
Lean & Efficient process   Iterative & Creative process
Think to Build   Build to Think
Impact: Evolutionary   Impact: Transformative
Intended to build efficient Solutions   Intended to build “Wow”

Which industries would most benefit from Adopting Design Thinking?

Design Thinking entails a lot of going back and forth which means a higher cost. Also, adopting Design Thinking process is a paradigm shift for the companies as it means vertical and horizontal integration of ideas and people.

To determine the answer to the above question, one should understand the degree of uncertainty in their business. Is your business likely to be disrupted by new technological advances? Is your industry heavily impacted with changing customer preferences?

Industries such as Consumer Electronics, Telecom, Automotive, and Healthcare can best benefit from adopting Design Thinking. It doesn’t matter which industry your organization belongs to or what’s is the nature of your business, there is a lot to gain from building a design thinking culture in your organization;

Linear problem solving is a thing of past. It’s time we bring our right brains to work. #designthinkingLinear problem solving is a thing of past. It’s time we bring our right brains to work. #designthinking

How Can HCL Help you in this Journey?

The speed of prototyping becomes an enormous advantage, as companies fail and learn faster. This is how small companies disrupt large companies. Design thinking is not about thinking and building. It is more about building to think by receiving and incorporating feedback directly from the market.

HCL can help you with Rapid Prototyping. It also brings Industrial Design experts who can help you through the entire journey.