Design Thinking & Techniques

I’m just back from a 2-day business model workshop I gave in Medellin, Colombia, with a local telecommunications company. For the first time I really elaborated a bit more on the design-thinking component of sound business model development. I pointed out that business people must display a particular design attitude and use design techniques in order to come up with good new business models.

The participants of the workshop, mainly from engineering backgrounds, responded really well to this message. They seemed to enjoy the co-creation, visual working on the wall, etc., which I got them to do during the break-out sessions.
Here some of the designer’s technique’s that I highlighted for use in business contexts:

  • Observation of clients to understand them, identify needs and design a corresponding business model
  • Co-creation with clients and among multi-disciplinary teams within companies to integrate different perspectives
  • Brainstorming and ideation to achieve break-throughs and come up with new business models
  • Visualization to connect concepts, foster joint understanding and run focused meetings
  • Prototyping to explore several ideas simultaneously and test business models

Initially, I wanted to show the participants the famous IDEO video where they design a new shopping cart in order to illustrate the above design techniques and design attitude. However, since the DVD I had was broken, I had to find some other videos on the Web or from my video library.

After some searching, I finally decided to show two excerpts from “Managing as Designing” from the Weatherhead School of Management. They highlight some interesting thinking on the relationship between design & business. I also showed a very short excerpt (because the whole thing would have scared them) from Philippe Starck’s talk at TED to show that design is not about making “nice” products, but about creating value for the user of a product. Philippe Starck, as many of you certainly now, is a celebrated star designer…

After these thoughts on design I would also like to stress how impressed I was by the workshop participants and the city of Medellin in general. Formerly known as a hub for narco-traffic the city has completely transformed over the past years. There is beautiful architecture everywhere and the economy is booming. Definitely a place I will enjoy to come back to. This is certainly also related to the outstanding hospitality I enjoyed by the persons who invited me.

Space as an Instrument for Business Model Innovation

At Arvetica we find that space is very important to foster creativity. This is the reason why we have brainstorming rooms with whiteboards and flipcharts, but also a "living room" area to get inspired. I rarely find such spaces in other places, which is sometimes limiting when working at our clients' premises.

Last Friday, however, I found such a space, which was perfectly designed for creativity. After a morning meeting at the college of management at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL), I decided to stay on the campus. At the architectural school I found a beautiful working spot, which you can see on the above photo.

It's an open space in the middle of the hallway of a relatively frequented building. There's a set of colorfull sofas and a large whiteboard (!). It feels like an open invitation to any person or group to sit down and get creative. The whiteboard is the perfect support to explain things visually and illustrate ideas on the wall. The electricity plug and WiFi allows you to pump information from the Internet. I realized how rarely I see such places at the companies I visit and wonder how many ideas get lost as a consequence...

This is probably particularly crucial when it comes to more strategic themes and ideas that are relegated to closed meeting rooms. Hasn't everybody of us experienced that the most interesting ideas come in a relaxed atmosphere. So maybe space is an instrument to help design the most innovative and effective business models...

Worth a thought?

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