Design+ is a two-year research project that brings together Aalto Design Factory, Aalto University School of Business and Stanford University. It focuses on design thinking in leadership, change management, and strategy work. Funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fundand company partners, Design+ looks for new ways of operating to match the needs of current fast changing operating environments and future of work. The project focuses on how design thinking and design methods can be used to produce concrete solutions for complex and abstract challenges in organizations, such as strategy work or cultural change. While we have a solid understanding of what design thinking is, research on its adoption is still scarce, particularly on the strategic level. To bridge this gap Design+ has interviewed over a hundred designers, design managers and design business leaders to date, and continues to track a number of design initiatives as the unfold in companies.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is an exploratory process, which allows unexpected discoveries along the way. It is iterative and non-linear by nature and differs significantly from the planning-centric, milestone-based processes that define traditional business practices. However, it is not disorganized or undisciplined. Instead, it aims to create results through inspiration, ideation, and implementation based on empathy, reframing, prototyping and co-creation in diverse groups.

Design thinking allows leaders and organizations to:

  • Combine creative and analytical thinking
  • Find customer/organization needs and dreams
  • Re-define problems
  • Create range of possible solutions
  • Get beyond obvious ideas
  • Prototype
  • Continuously iterate

While measuring the impact of design is tricky, investment in design pays off: research has linked better design is linked to improvement in organizations’ business performance (in terms of, for example, time-to-market, adoption rate, share of wallet, market share, revenue growth, profitability, and brand value). The Design Management Institute’s 2015 Design Value Index, based on a portfolio of publicly traded stocks from companies considered to be design-driven, has shown repeatedly returns exceeding 200% over the S&P 500.



Tua BjörklundDesign Plus