Goodbye Six Sigma, hello Design Thinking!

Here’s an extract from another brilliantly thought-provoking speech Bruce Nussbaum‘s just given at the Singapore Design Thinking Symposium (you can find the full text on his NussbaumOnDesign blog).

I post it, not only because Bruce’s closing thought (on the essential optimism of Design Thinking) picks up neatly on my previous post, but also because I think it provides a fantastic précis of the approaching tipping point – a sort of fin de siecle which will see the death of our 20th century obsession with homogeneity and efficiency as a meaningful basis of lasting value creation and competitive advantage.

“[T]hree global forces—the rise and fall of nations [the economic rise of Asia vis-a-vis the West], the rise and fall of generations [the demographic rise of Gen Y vis-a-vis Baby Boomers] and the spread of digital social media—are combining to transform our world and especially our global economy. We are on the cusp of a New Normal. This New Normal situation in the world will need a new paradigm and fresh tools and methods to generate economic growth and prosperity.

Which brings me to Design. During the time that big political, demographic and technological forces of change have been reshaping the global economy, the field of Design has been evolving into a serious discipline that can help us navigate today’s economic uncertainties and generate value for tomorrow’s products and services.

Design has made a revolutionary journey in the past decade from a narrow field able to focus on the making of stuff to the design of social systems and the transformation of healthcare, transportation, supply-chain, education…

How so? Building on the user-centric roots of industrial design, Design has an ethnographic core that allows businessmen and others to connect with any and all cultures, real and digital, anywhere around the world. And Design’s ability to learn from these cultural connections and translate that data into new concepts for products and services gives it the power to generate revenue and profits in a global economic environment of deepening uncertainty.

If Six Sigma and management thinking were our guides to efficient choice-making and profit maximization in yesterday’s era of global hegemony, stability and homogeneity, then in an era of global heterogeneity, instability and diversity, Design Thinking can be our guide to deep consumer understanding, visualization of possibilities, generative option-making and strategic brand finding…

Technology used to dominate innovation. Today, technology is everywhere and accessible to all. Design Thinking is far more important to innovation than technology. Finding relevance and meaning to people living in a multiplicity of real and digital cultures is the new key to success… Empathy. Connection. Engagement. Interaction. Options. That’s Design…

The challenge ahead for Singapore is to add a new competency, a Design Thinking competency, to its excellent model of efficient engineering. The challenge is to learn to understand cultures all over the real and digital world in order to deliver what people want, wherever they live, and on their platform of choice. This is where economic value is created today.

I would like to end on a philosophical note. One reason why people are turning to Design Thinking today is that it is essentially optimistic. Design has a future-facing perspective and a tool-using core competence. The whole purpose of Design is to make the new. We live a life of constant beta, a place of uncertainty and cascading change. In this new world, Design Thinking can be our navigator. We should embrace it.”

 

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