Articles in #design thinking

uncertainty

If you cannot see the forrest for the trees, it doesn’t mean you can’t see at all – you just lack the focus on what’s essential. It’s just that you cannot zoom-in and cut-out all those impressions, which should not be taken into account.

This happens a lot, for instance when you scan the shelves in a store, to find the appropriate offer – in most cases you walk-out without buying anything: overload leads to paralysis, too much information hampers recognition of the essential – it makes you uncertain.

oxymoron

It starts to irritate me, the more and more I’m confronted with it: this title ‘design manager’.

And the longer I spin my head around it, the more this title ends up being an oxymoron – next to that it’s also not clear to me, which part in the title is the sharp one, which the dull!

digital

They are definitively different, to my opinion… or is it that I get older and fall into the same trap as before me my parents and their parents did: into the one of ignorance? With them I refer to the youth, of course. No, this generation is definitively different!

can designers save the world?

Risk-avoidance is the topic of concern, even more so, since we do all now fear that the same fait as to those poor people in Japan could happen to us as well. The collective angst, which predominantly finds fertile ground here in Germany, is in line with one of our basic needs – security: we do want the world to work according our desires and vision – safe, in order, fair and fortunate.

That’s why politicians will do everything to ensure us that they can protect this state of heaven – and with that, hope for our vote.

In the meanwhile we know, that whether left or right, green or liberal, all use our angst to drive us voters into their political camp: the insecurity they accordingly address varies from prosperity in an economical sense, to fairness in a social sense, down to safety in an ecological sense. And business does the same, they also promise to take care of all our problems.

design driven innovation

Speech held at the Fraunhofer Innovation Forum:

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need innovation to progress.
We need innovation to keep our economic cycle going, which is still based on consuming and renewing.
We need innovation to help us climb the ladder of human needs, on our way to reach the final step… Innovation is there to bring us this advantage: Like a seed it holds the key to continuity. For our economy and society it creates value and prosperity, and in our economic system it‘s a mean to sustain against competition.

effectiveness

Newton delivered the dominating formula to describe effectiveness in the agricultural and industrial age:

Work = Force x Distance

The more force I apply, the more ‘work’ I get done, hence the more effective I am. The more the distance I use, the more effective I become as well (though this approach might only appeal to a physicist). All this work accumulates into the power that we can perform or generate: because power = work over time.

Where in the past it was crucial to keep the work as low as possible (also because the force was limited and scarce) and therefore rely on longer distances or self-sufficiency, over time work eventually became the sole purpose of our society: the more work that got done, the better-off our society became at large. The effect of all the work done? More power! Especially those in possession of force, or those who were quicker than others, could get more work done and therefore surpass the others. They became more powerful and effective, and therefore they ruled.

If you want to increase the work done ,and at such become more effective, force is the mean that can be increased the best: who really wants to increase the distance? Because that costs time, and limiting time is crucial if you want to increase the power. Where in the agricultural age access to force applied by humans and animals were determining effectiveness, in the industrial age the focus was on increasing force through machines  – machines are most effective, they dramatically increase force and reduce time.

But when eventually the generation of the work reached it’s peak in perfection (the force applied by machines) we turned to reducing time more and more: efficiency creeps in and it is still dominating the improvement of power up to today. In oder to maximize the effect of the work done, our society and businesses turned to maximize the efficiency. That’s why the formula of the industrial business society is like this:

Effectiveness = Means x Efficiency

And that’s why up to today industrial managers are in charge and they focus on what they can do best: increase the efficiency.

In the meantime also processes, systems, technologies and distances, just about everything you can improve through efficiency, have reached their peak as well. An increase in efficiency is marginal these days, so some turn to brute force again, or they try to find other means…

And something else happened: we are leaving the industrial age and now enter the knowledge age. Not only the industrial means are crucial, but foremost the intellectual means available are influencing the effectiveness. The means are now enriched with increased knowledge, so it’s not efficiency that is crucial, but the access to this knowledge.
That’s why the formula of the knowledge society should be:

Effectiveness = Means x Access

So the one that advances today, is the one with access. The dot-com boomers and shrewd bankers understood and just did it like their industrial ancestors  – now they increased the access to increase the effect!
Because in order to increase effectiveness by only increasing the knowledge (the mean) is cumbersome and time consuming, so it’s way easier to increase the efficiency, hum, the access! Access is about being smart, not knowledgeable.
The fact that access led to reward through huge bonuses and incentives, at the expense of the knowledgeable and working people, just seemed the result of the laws of nature: ‘smart’ people just didn’t care, it always has been like this, or?  Effectiveness is for them is the biggest bang for the buck!

Unfortunately these modern business advancers, like their industrial forefathers, have reached the end of their advancement – in the meanwhile everybody is getting smart, thanks to the internet!
What remains is the option to increase the effectiveness by turning to the means again, to the people carrying the knowledge and intellect, the people that work for a company and to those people, for whom the company is working. By focussing on humans, societies and companies can tap into those resources again who by far are not depleted, they were just neglected.

So if companies want to tap into the human potential to increase the effect of what they do, they have to focus on the human side of what they do and how they do it. Here a new thinking can help, one that is different from the thinking that drove the efficiency up, but one that will drive the creativity and imagination up: it needs design thinking and empathy. The challenge here is to leave the newtonian thinking behind, which relates a logical cause to an effect and which is based on deductive reasoning. To increase the effectiveness, we need to start to imagine, to design.

If organizations can embed this thinking in whatever they do, and focus on the human, then they can embrace the challenges of the post-industrial society, where economic progression is related to the effect a proposition has on the individual. In this experience economy you have to focus on the human, focus on making the right things, rather then making things right. To do that you need knowledge and empathy, being smart and efficient is not enough.

That’s why the formula for the design thinking economy is:

Effectivity = Means x Focus

And – do you have a focus yet?

 

August, 2010.

lessons of a fruit grower

On the long run a sustainable approach to business is more rewarding than only going for a quick harvest: if greed prevails, sustainability is at risk. Where this can lead to, can easily be explained by any farmer who is running the farm, which he inherited from his great-grandfathers.

Temptation is huge though, to only focus on the biggest possible harvest. In the end the only thing which counts are the fruits (of labor) – it’s all about the apples.