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Designing For Growth. A CreativityCentral Review.

In 1984, Chiat Day created a television spot and an advertising campaign for the Apple MacIntosh that became the stuff of legend.

The television spot, directly by Ridley Scott, aired on the Super Bowl featured a bleak, conformist world (yes, think IBM) and Apple as the liberator.

Steve Hayden, the writer of the commercial” said, “We thought of it as an ideology, a value set. It was a way of letting the whole world access the power of computing and letting them talk to one another.  The democratization of technology -- the computer for the rest of us.”

As a metaphor, it was perfect for the times. In the early 90’s, a very top down mind-set ruled. It was an era when the consumer played a role as customer, not as collaborator. 

Recently, Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie published “Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers. My first thought was “finally a design thinking book for the rest of us.”

True, it’s not quite the massive paradigm shift that Apple engineered, but it’s an apt metaphor for the growing popularity and utility of Design Thinking.

Over the past decade, there have been many great thought leaders and vocal advocates of the collective ideas that comprise “design thinking.” 

Notably Tom and David Kelly and Tim Brown of IDEO.  Marty Neumeier of Liquid, Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management and Bruce Nussbaum of Business Week.

Roger Martin wrote in the Design of Business, “The most successful businesses in the years to come will balance analytical mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay that I call design thinking.”

What Jeanne Liedtka, a professor at U. Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business and Tim Ogilvie, CEO of the innovation strategy consultancy Peer Insight, have done is create a highly readable bridge between the “what” and “why” of design thinking to the “how.”

The authors have made the ideas of design thinking accessible and actionable to the business community.

"Design thinking can do for organic growth and innovation what TQM did for quality," write the authors, "take something we have always cared about and put tools and processes into the hands of managers to make it happen.”

The goal of their book is to demystify design thinking by translating “design” from an abstract idea into a practical, everyday tool any manager can profit from. The book is clear, concise and written with a deft and knowledgeable touch.

What the authors bring to the business thinking table is a sense of how most businesses learn -- and how leaders and entrepreneurs currently think.  When married to the foundations of design thinking, the Designing for Growth approach provides a snapshot into how business schools are going to be teaching in the next decade.

In Change By Design, IDEO’s Tim Brown put design thinking in perspective: “What tools do we have that can lead us from modest incremental changes to the leaps of insight that will redraw the map? I’d like to focus upon three mutually reinforcing elements of any successful design program -- insight, observation, and empathy.

Richard Saul Wurman, founder of the TED conferences often uses the term “the disease of the familiar.”  

What makes Designing for Growth such a timely book is that it occupies the niche often neglected by practitioners who’ve had the benefit of a five-to-ten year head start on understanding the ideas behind design thinking. 

The magic of the book is that it translates the fundamental promise of design-oriented thinking into a straightforward set of concepts and tools that the practicing manager—can use immediately as a catalyst for growth and innovation.

The design thinking process described in this book contains four questions:

What is? – Exploring the current reality

What if? – Envisioning alternative futures

What wows? – Getting users to help us make some tough choices

What works? – Making it work in-market, and as a business

The book contains 10 ready-to-use tools -- each aligned to one of the four questions. These tools include visualization, brainstorming customer journey mapping, value chain analysis, customer co-creation, rapid prototyping, concept development, assumption testing and the learning launch.

This isn’t a book you simply put on the shelf, it’s a book you keep open on your desk.  It offers a process to begin integrating the habit of design thinking into how you and your colleagues work.

My advice? Get Designing for Growth before your competition does. When it comes to understanding and applying design thinking, it truly is a book for the rest of us.  

Click below to see book on Amazon.

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers (Columbia Business School Publishing)

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