The first note in my office book comes under the title ‘Prakash Gyaan’ and goes like this: “Buy a set of screw drivers to explore and analyze everyday products”. Turn a couple of pages and the title changes to ‘Manoj Gyaan’ with a note saying: “Story telling ability is the most important feature in a product”.  Such experiences and innumerable sentences make up the person I am; 2011 a year when I finally made it from a roll-call to a pay-roll.

A Thoughtful Desk

So what are the two best things I learnt in 2011? Let’s start with an everyday example at work. I had designed a very good looking product, rendered in three different angles and presented on five different slides. I thought the work was good enough until the pros came up with a twenty slide presentation showing quality stuff. As the brainstorming session heated up with strong arguments, we soon found ourselves slipping into an act of ‘Ashtray Speaking’. Ashtray Speaking is an act of sharing a number of thoughts and possibilities without jumping on to the conclusion. Unlike Lateral Thinking where the emphasis is to generate more ideas, in Ashtray Speaking you pick up incomplete sentences, enrich them with your own thoughts and pass it on to others and generate more keywords. It’s more like a debate where you try to build on other sentences without ruling out the possibilities. The exercise is a holistic approach to get the most out of a cross functional team.

As the brainstorming session came to an end, few keywords triggered the debate about the strength of our company. “As a design company, we stand out by… (I like the new client logo but the colors could have been a little more vibrant)…and work with the management to propagate design thinking.” I seem to have missed out the most important part about our company. With no more thinking, I pen down a note under the title ‘Manoj Gyaan’: “Propagate Design Thinking”. Design Thinking is the second best thing that happened in 2011.

Design Thinking (DiT) is a global buzzword coined by the well articulating designers. As the standard definition goes, Design Thinking (DiT) refers to a philosophy where design transforms the way products, services, processes and even strategies are developed. Unlike Strategic Thinking (SiT) that is mainly governed by analysis, DiT takes a creative approach to problem solving. A number of companies have demonstrated sizable growth by channeling DiT into their core decisions. Apple is a superstar example of transformation using DiT but then Apple is perhaps the best example of everything under the sun. Now if are thinking that DiT is the next big thing after Steve Jobs, hold on. What DiT utterly lacks is Steve Jobs.

Apple launched a number of mind-blowing products thanks to Steve and his team. At the front end, what looks like a good product is also a perfect blend of DiT and SiT. A number of times, Design insights and Strategic Solutions cross each other in decision-making. Strategies have been well institutionalized in the core management that has strong analytical skills while Design lacks a holistic approach and is not at the core of the business. So while every other cell phone manufacturer was busy designing the perfect keypad for the upcoming models, Steve had a different question: Why do we need a keypad? Its companies like Apple that blends the conventional management system with aspects of ‘Thought Leadership’ to design products that sell across the segments and redefine strategies.

Onio Design

With a number of design firms practicing Strategic Design Management, it would not be surprising to see design have a say in business. Early 2012, with the arrival of top international design houses like IDEO, Frog Design and Landor Associates, Indian companies will have a good time shopping. What works for Onio Design is our understanding of India, an international client experience and we stand out (you know I missed out those sentences) by propagating design thinking.

~ Krishna Nair


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