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Feb 14, 2018 | 3 min read


Design Thinking or the Art of Innovation


François Truong

Senior Change Maker

Despite what the magazines may tell you, Design Thinking will not solve all your problems. However, this method of innovation, focusing on the user and their environment, may completely change how you look at your organization.

Let’s rewind a little. Design Thinking was born in the 1950s when an American advertising executive invented brainstorming. A little later, the concept fully emerged in Stanford, with the advent of user-centered design, a method based around observing and interpreting behaviors, practices and feelings. It was not until the 1990s that the US agency IDEO extended its use to the corporate world. Design was no longer limited to the conception of objects, but could be used to solve problems of any kind. Throughout the 2000s, the GAFAs made it very much their trademark. Last year, Google Ventures, the investment fund which specializes in supporting startups, published the book Sprint which promises to “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”. An attractive proposition! Behind this promising title, the book offers precious advice to all those who would like to change their perception of innovation. Unfortunately, here as elsewhere, there are no magic formulas, and following a method to the letter is absolutely no guarantee that your project will succeed.

Design Thinking is often summarized as a series of steps to be followed. However, it is above all a philosophy to be implemented throughout your company: placing people at the heart of everything. Let’s take a look at how to do this:

Design Thinking as a vehicle of empathy


  • It is no accident that Design Thinking can provide innovative solutions: it offers a better understanding of users, beyond the numerous opinion polls already at the company’s disposal. Understanding your customer means putting yourself in their place, observing them in the field, questioning them. In short, knowing what the user says, thinks, feels and hears. Tim Brown is a pioneer in this method. He addresses the importance of designers’ ability to immerse themselves in empathy, to understand the context of the user, in order to meet their needs as closely as possible. And this can be applied to any product or service. This is precisely what Design Thinking is all about: using the approach and tools of a designer to imagine and devise new products and services based on the needs of end users (customers, employees, partners, or the general public) rather than simply based on the context of your company (current expertise, internal and external constraints).
  • In this way, Design Thinking can be used to accelerate innovation cycles within your company through feedback from your users. It is no longer a question of waiting for the perfect product, a first tangible prototype is all that is required to seek initial reactions. After all, as LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman explains, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched it too late.”
  • Design Thinking makes it possible to smash the silos and streamline communication within the organization through multidisciplinary teams. By clarifying each person’s role, blame can no longer be placed on another department, supposedly responsible for the inertia around a project. Three types of profile in particular are essential to maximize the chances of successful innovation:
  • designers, the guarantors of the desirability of your product or service,
  • Engineers, the guarantors of its technical feasibility,
  • Analysts, the guarantors of its economic viability.

Ultimately, whether we think of HR, IT, Legal, Marketing or Finance departments, all functions in the company are concerned. With Design Thinking, you can now simplify subscription to your service, improve the new employee arrival process, streamline computer hardware demands, and make your reporting more legible. All these examples are taken from workshops with our clients: major names in publishing, insurance, banking, energy and transport. Some of the prototypes devised to meet these requirements gave rise, after testing and iteration of course, to real projects. Others did not. But one thing is certain: they all provided a better understanding of the end user. Plus, they all made it possible to accelerate the innovation cycle and strengthen collaboration within teams where there may have been little communication.

So, Design Thinking will not solve all your problems, but it will enable you, in the first instance, to identify them and make your teams aware of them. Regardless of your specific role or sector of activity, you should take an interest in it now. Not for the outcome it will provide, but for the state of mind it will foster within your teams.

Are you interested in Design Thinking?

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