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A Different You

 

But what if you are not a CEO? Worse, what if the CEO you work for doesn’t have the first clue about the importance of design thinking and the need to encourage it? Are you then powerless to improve your circumstances and your organization’s prospects?

Definitely not. You are far from powerless, and you are anything but alone. The business world is dominated by reliability. But that need not impede your efforts to sharpen your own design-thinking capability. While you may have to fight your organization’s baked-in biases against design thinking, the effort will help you sharpen your innovation skills and prepare you to be your company’s champion of design.

To become a design thinker, you must develop the stance, tools, and experiences that facilitate design thinking. Stance is your view of the world and your role in it. Tools are the models that you use to understand your world and organize your thinking. Experiences are what build and develop your skills and sensitivities over time.

Rather than being cowed by a reliability-oriented world and becoming a prisoner of it, the design thinker develops a stance that puts a priority on seeking validity and making advances in knowledge, even if that stance places the thinker at odds with the organization’s culture. In addition to mastering tools for analyzing the past and using that analysis to predict the future, the design thinker develops the capacity for observation, for seeing features that others may miss. The design thinker, in the words of novelist Saul Bellow, is “a first-class noticer.” 6

Along with developing tools for honing and refining the status quo, design thinkers develop tools for moving knowledge forward. They build their capacity for the unique configuration of designs that transform their insights into viable business offerings. And design thinkers use their experiences to deepen their mastery of the current knowledge domain and exercise originality in moving knowledge forward to the next stage. In combination, this approach to your stance, tools, and experiences will create a virtuous cycle, reinforcing your design-thinking approach over time.

Toward the end of the book, I will return to advice for the individual design thinker. First, though, let us turn our attention to the organization and to the powerful currents that the design thinker must swim against to transform it. We need to understand how reliability, which first appears to ensure success for any business that cultivates it to its highest point, turns out to be the chief limiter of success. And how validity, which at first seems to be the enemy of reliability, is the force that, when paired with reliability, creates a winning advantage.

 

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