DESIGN+

Faced with an ever-increasing pace and complexity, organizations are in dire need for new types of approaches for enacting development. Design+ investigates how we can harness design approaches to create new value. The initiative is organized under two projects, a three-year multidisciplinary research project studying the interconnection between design and strategizing practices, funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, and a two-year project focusing on design thinking in innovation projects and organizational culture, funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund and company partners.

Design+ brings together Aalto Design Factory, Aalto University School of ScienceAalto University School of Business and Stanford University. We study how design thinking and design methods can be used to produce concrete solutions for complex and abstract challenges in organizations, overcoming frictions in collaboration amongst diverse stakeholders and promoting distributed initiative. 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.

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