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Can Design Thinking Save the Economic Dinosaurs?
Design Thinking is one of the most fashionable concepts in the innovation world these days. But could it really save industries that are on the fast road to extinction?
Design Thinking is one of the most fashionable concepts in the innovation world these days. And no wonder – doesn’t every company want to be the next Apple or Target? Design Thinking, when it works well, means stylish, innovative products that resonate with high-end customers. You get products like the iPad, partnerships with name-brand industrial designers, online buzz, and maybe even a mention or two in a new bestselling business book. But can Design Thinking really save the dinosaurs of industry?
There are a handful of industries that I’d refer to as "the dinosaurs" – the automotive industry, the newspaper and magazine industry, most healthcare providers, the utilities, the cable TV industry – these are all the usual suspects. All of the leading players in these industries are at risk of imminent extinction if they do not change the way they do business.
Yet, at a time when they could be applying basic tenets of Design Thinking to their business, they are instead choosing to define Design Thinking to mean only "design." They forget the "thinking" part.
Take the newspaper industry, for example. Instead of radically re-thinking what it means to be a content provider in the digital age, it is far easier to focus on "making things look pretty." A charming little Portuguese publication - i - recently won an award for being the Best Designed Newspaper in the World. The design elements are unmistakable – a gorgeous layout, wonderful page bleeds, fantastic fonts, jaw-dropping infographics, you get the idea. Yes, it's designed well and I love the way it looks.
However, that's the way "design" is typically translated by the economic dinosaurs - a cool presentation layer, cool product names, cool celebrity backers, a cool building designed by a starchitect, a cool marketing campaign - and I'm just not sure it's enough.
Design without a fundamental design change to the business model – where does that lead you? Design Thinking, when it includes the “design of new user experiences" - that’s where I think industry's dinosaurs can benefit from design. Newspaper companies should be thinking of how they can create new experiences across every platform, of innovative ways to charge for premium content, of new distribution models - not just ways to make the fonts look nicer.
IDEO's Tim Brown – usually considered one of the pioneers of the Design Thinking movement – has defined Design Thinking as "a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” I think this does an excellent job of locating design within certain intellectual guardrails. Note that Tim Brown does not use the words "cool" or "sexy" to define Design Thinking.
Design has to be feasible and viable. Design Thinking is not just something you can sprinkle on the top of an existing business model -- it requires a long-term commitment to fundamentally changing the corporate DNA. Over the long-term, Design Thinking can save the economic dinosaurs - but only if they truly understand the difference between "design" and "design thinking."
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.
- One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
- A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
- The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.