Corporate Headquarters
651 Oakleaf Office Lane
Memphis, TN 38117

Knoxville Office
106 Gore SW
Knoxville, TN 37919

Satellite Offices

(901) 726-1008
[email protected]

The Real Benefit of Design Thinking

Design Thinking is the name of a formal innovation process used by many leading organizations such as P&G, Mayo Clinic, Bayer, and others. While Design Thinking came out of product development and engineering fields, its processes are being adopted by research and development, marketing, and product management departments in many firms across the globe.

As a method for solving complex problems, Design Thinking helps organizations discern unmet needs and create value from these insights. Yet, the real benefit of Design Thinking is seeing how employees and colleagues personally transform as they get exposed to the iterative Design Thinking process–empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test and co-create, and storytelling.

I have the radical blessing of working in-depth with people who do inspiring work that brings out the best side of their humanity. Their senses, instincts, and capacity for wonder evoke awe.

At our innovation studio, we help organizations create empathy with the people for whom they design solutions. That means we have to be totally present with the widest cross-section of humanity imaginable. Given the variety of clients, we meet a lot of people–from soldiers to housewives, chemists to poets, wealthy to subsistence-level poor, athletes, butchers, warehouse workers, doctors, CEOs, you name it.

Typically, the more you constructively and respectfully engage people with creative endeavors, they open up. The trade term is Empathy.

Then, there is co-creation, where we bring in groups of people to help us refine product prototypes. Typically, there are three to six sessions with groups of six to 10 people a piece per project.

Here is what we have learned: If you sincerely ask someone for feedback and to help you make something better, they give it their best 99% of the time. One such humanizing moment is when one participant voices a problem or condition and the others focus intently on creating something for their new friend. People, when brought into community, genuinely want to help others.

The concepts get humanized. The people are respected for who and what they are, and are not mere two-dimensional marketing targets, and therefore are humanized. The brand or company for whom we are working becomes more in touch with the real people for whom they are designing solutions: organizational humanization. The whole process is humanizing.

The real benefit — the gift — of doing design thinking for a living is that the navigator of the project gets an immersive humanizing experience every day. Furthermore, one gets to make a living helping people discover their drives, passions, dislikes, and helping people articulate these esoteric responses to real things such as products, services, and experiences. The learning that comes will be deep.

As well, if you do this work day-to-day you’ll know beyond the shadow of a shadow of a doubt the essential oneness of people.

Despite the colors and flavors of culture, race, and ethnicity, people are people. I hold a long-standing conviction that many people harbor latent prejudices. Most tend to go through life with a filter of “us” and “our way” and “other.”

Doing design thinking is a cure for such small mindedness — and is the real, lasting benefit of this humanizing work.

This article was written by Michael Graber and originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.