Design thinking and culture
Does your company deliver services, or deal with customers of any kind? Do you have employees operating machines and tools? The answer is probably yes, and if so, chances are you’ve encountered or at least heard about Design Thinking in relation to your business. This is not unlikely, as Design Thinking is employed in all manners of companies in solving problems with human centered and complex problems (Kolko, 2015). Design Thinking methods are also to some degree interchangeable with company culture.
What exactly is Design Thinking and why are companies using it?
Well, it is defined as both a process and an individual characteristic, or in other words, refers to certain kinds of methods, but also an individual sensibility, which all links design with business. At the hearth of this design approach is the human experience. It is all about understanding, often particularly difficult problems, through empathy with the user and generating and exploring novel ideas to find a solution through various means.
In practice, this approach often encompasses observation, collaboration, often across disciplines, fast learning, visualization and rapid concept prototyping and thinking both analytically and intuitively (Micheli et al., 2019). Companies understandably use Design Thinking to solve all kinds of problems, mainly to create the best possible product, services and experiences, but also attempting to solve large organizational problems (Coughlan et al., 2017).
The concept of Design Thinking
How does Design Thinking relate to culture?
As Design Thinking are both the methodes, but also the thinking one applies, it is heavily interdependent on culture, as culture is often defined as a toolkit one draws the symbols, stories, rituals, beliefs, ideologies and daily practice one used in everyday behavior, or as ‘how we do things around here’ (Swidler, 1986). In one sense Design Thinking is a certain toolkit, with various beliefs and behaviors, hence a certain culture. Some scholars also talk about industry registers, as a common cultural toolkit for an industry, unique for that industry. In this sense Design Thinking is the industry register, or the toolkit, of concepts used and accepted as appropriate in the design industry to interpret situations and create strategies (Rindova et al., 2010). So, to incorporate Design Thinking and create the absolute best products, services and solutions in general, you need a culture to accommodate it. Bad news, you might be thinking, as you know culture is notoriously difficult to change. Well, hold on.
Collaboration is an essential part of a culture encompassing Design Thinking.
Culture as often visualized in the literature
Wait, so I cannot change culture?
Luckily, just as there is literature suggesting that cultural change is almost impossible, or very difficult, there are also studies which indicate that this is not necessarily true. There are practitioners who have successfully changed cultures. The assumption is that by changing the outer layer, changing the behavior, the inner beliefs and eventually the core values and identity will follow (Shook, 2010).
Cultural enrichment is another term describing the transfer and adoption of cultural resources and behavior repertoire from one industry registry to another, and is essentially what adopting Design Thinking, or any other behaviors for that matter, is (Rindova et al., 2010). This is also empirically found to be true for changing a culture into a Design Thinking culture as Design Thinking tools appear to influence and develop cultures related to experimentation and openness to failure, central aspects of a culture that emphasizes Design Thinking. Similarly, collaborative and experimental cultures support the use of prototyping, co creation and consumer journey mapping, while cultures defined by productivity and performance inhibit the use of such tools. The opposite reaction also appears to be true, a design culture promotes the use of Design Thinking tools (Elsbach & Stigliani, 2018).
This translates to work practices being able to change culture, and culture being able to change work practices. Central to this is the idea of culture being a way to make sense of day-to-day practices, which resonates with the previous mentioned visualizations of culture, with the values guiding the behavior (Elsbach & Stigliani, 2018).
Cultural change is not impossible Shook, (2010)
Central to changing a culture successfully is the redefinition of identity (Rindova et al., 2010). Essential to this is sensemaking, both on an individual and organizational level. Is the glue that links culture to everyday practice, and is consequently essential to the ability to transform a culture into a Design Thinking culture (Elsbach & Stigliani, 2018;Rindova et al., 2010). Sensemaking is the key to changing all the levels of the culture, not just the repertoire, actually, sensemaking, or ‘why we do what we do’ is a good definition of what culture is and does for an individual and an organization (Elsbach & Stigliani, 2018).
Fortunately, you can change culture!
Is design thinking always effective?
No, not necessarily always, Design Thinking methods are great at innovative solutions to complex problems, but it is not necessarily great for optimizing and to streamline businesses who need to be effective and stable (Kolko, 2015). Like any tool, Design Thinking methods should be used consciously and with the limitations of the methods in mind, it is for example great for idea generation and selection but not necessarily during implementation. And too much use of brainstorming sessions, for example, might actually be counterproductive (Seidel & Fixson, 2013). Having a awesome toolkit is after all not that useful if you don’t know how to use the tools properly. Just like a skilled craftsman you need to know which tools are best for each task, and which is most effective at what job.
Recap: Design Thinking and culture
- Design Thinking is a term used to describe various methods, practices and a particular way of thinking traditionally used in the Design Industry, but increasingly used in a plethora of businesses to solve complex tasks, often centred around the human experience.
- These include ethnographic methods, personas, journey mapping, brainstorming, mind map, visualization, prototyping and experiments.
- Culture and the behaviors and everyday tools and practices one uses are interchangeably intertwined as the underlying cultural identity and values informs the repertoire of beliefs and actions.
- Ultimately changing these can be hard, but certainly not impossible, studies support the notion that the two affect each other, integrate new practices and the values and identity will follow.
- Central to a successful integration of new cultural repertoire is the re-identification and sensemaking of the new practice.
- Using these practices should, like any others, be used and implemented purposefully, and most likely as each culture is different and even ephemeral, in the sense that it is ever changing, a universal approach is unlikely, and each culture will need its unique approaches .
The author of the text is Stian Kjelstrup Jacobsen.
Need help mapping out your company culture, or making changes? See our services, and don’t hesitate to make contact email@example.com ! We look forward to hearing from you.
Canato, A., & Ravasi, D. (2015). Managing long-lasting cultural changes. Organizational Dynamics, 44(1), 75–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.11.009
Coughlan, P., Suri, J. F., & Canales, K. (2007). Prototypes as (Design) Tools for Behavioral and Organizational Change: A Design-Based Approach to Help Organizations Change Work Behaviors. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 43(1), 122–134. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886306297722
Elsbach, K. D., & Stigliani, I. (2018). Design Thinking and Organizational Culture: A Review and Framework for Future Research. Journal of Management, 44(6), 2274–2306. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206317744252
Kolko, J. (2015, September 1). Design Thinking Comes of Age. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age
Micheli, P., Wilner, S. J. S., Bhatti, S. H., Mura, M., & Beverland, M. B. (2019). Doing Design Thinking: Conceptual Review, Synthesis, and Research Agenda. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 36(2), 124–148. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12466
Rindova, V., Dalpiaz, E., & Ravasi, D. (2010). A Cultural Quest: A Study of Organizational Use of New Cultural Resources in Strategy Formation. Organization Science, 22(2), 413–431. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1100.0537
Seidel, V. P., & Fixson, S. K. (2013). Adopting Design Thinking in Novice Multidisciplinary Teams: The Application and Limits of Design Methods and Reflexive Practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30(S1), 19–33. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12061
Shook—How to Change a Culture Lesson From NummI.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.asenta.es/src/uploads/2019/06/How-to-change-a-Culture-Lessons-from-Nummi.pdf
Swidler, A. (1986). Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies. American Sociological Review, 51(2), 273–286. https://doi.org/10.2307/2095521
You may be interested
5 Elementer i innovasjonsprosessen
Innovasjon. Innovasjon har blitt et buzz-ord i dagens næringsliv. Googles søkeresultater sier at ordet “innovasjon” har blitt brukt mer enn en halv milliard ganger på […]
What is the sustainability problem and why should your company care? no
In this article we look closer at: What the sustainability problem is, How does it impact your company, Two approaches to embrace the problem, 4 […]
How can an established company innovate as a startup? no
It is easy to think that start-ups are only a small version of established companies, and the organizational structure is roughly the same only smaller. […]
How to align sustainability and profitability? no
In this article we look closer at: What does research say about sustainability and profitability? 3 easy steps to help you integrate sustainability efforts into […]
How to overcome 3 Biggest Obstacles to Innovation Success?
In most cases innovation does not come easy. Ideas about ways to innovate may be easily thought of, however, the right way of executing these […]
Home Office and Innovation, is it possible? no
In this article we discuss: Does working from home damage innovation? How management needs to adapt? Possible solution: The actor-oriented structure Additional tips to succeeding […]
CO2 Utslippene har ingen grenser! no
For at vi skal lykkes å nå målene om nullutslipp, må Norge dele kunnskapene internasjonalt.
Søke på EEA & Norway Grants? Her er våre 5 tips!
EEA and Norway Grants? Ser du etter en norsk partner? Her er noen tips og triks fra vår erfaring i VINCO!
How do organizations digitally transform? no
Digitalization is not the same as innovation, but digitalization can be an important factor that will inflame innovation. Many innovations resulted from digitalization through enabling […]
What have Design thinking and Culture in common when it comes to innovation? no
Design thinking and culture
6 områder som har opplevd innovasjon fra fintech – en kort oversikt
Å fremme innovasjon er nøkkelen til å utvide virksomheten din og nødvendig for å holde deg foran konkurransen. De to sektorene som brukte mest på […]
Vet du forskjellen på radikal og disruptiv innovasjon?
Did Apple disrupt the market? Did the launch of iPhone make Apple a market disruptor?
To excel in innovation endeavors: 3 things to learn from the Covid crisis! no
3 important tips you can learn from the Covid-19 crisis to excel in your innovation endeavors!
Tjener alle innovasjonsløsningene dine penger? Her er 3 trinn for hvordan du oppretter en bærekraftig innovasjonsportefølje!
Vil du ha en portefølje av innovative løsninger som ikke tjener penger?
Persistent innovators and how to act now (ref. Covid-19) no
In this post we cover: What is in common among persistent innovators during and after the 2008 crisis? How will the Covid-19 crisis affect […]
Øker kriser innovasjonsgraden, eller er dette en myte?
How can we expect that the (coronavirus) crisis will affect innovation output?
Definisjon og typer av innovasjon
Innovation is a very frequently used term. Everyone talks about innovation. We hear phrases like disruptive innovation, incremental innovation, architectural innovation, radical innovation… But how […]
Reacting to the Crisis: 5 steps to Success
In less than three months, the spreading of the coronavirus has proven to be catastrophic for hundreds of thousands of people. At the time of […]
Our times of high uncertainty…. no
Coronavirus (or Covid-19) has caused the world to turn upside down in a very short time. As of last week, the picture in Norway has […]
Våger Norge egentlig å gå ut av komfort sone? no
SSB sin statistikk viser at i Norge var det ca. 65% av norske foretak som hadde noen type av innovasjonsaktivitet i perioden 2014-2016. Dette er […]
Bergen kommune og Digital Kultur Plattform
BT har skrevet et innlegg om Bergen Kommune (BK) sitt initiativ «Digital Kultur Plattform». Jeg har ledet forprosjektet (gjennom engasjement i Capgemini) i vår og […]
Music Tech Fest – an event full of inspiration and innovation no
The city of Bergen invited Michela Magas for visit in May as a part of the Festspillene[i] and launching of the Bergen Nå(Now) project. I […]