The holy grail is a cocktail bar

It is widely said that change is the only constant. With the increased use of technology and data, change is going exponentially faster than before. Start-ups can suddenly grow to take-over long standing companies and established companies have to keep looking for new opportunities. In this environment many companies are searching for the best way to change the organization to become future proof and looking to other successful companies to try and copy their formula for success. Basically, companies are looking for the holy grail.

Many people think that companies like Apple, Google, Amazon or successful start-ups have found this holy grail. They definitely know how to innovate. What they all have in common is that they put their end-user at the heart of everything they do, using a human-centered approach. They really think about what is important to their users. To stay or become successful it is essential to be human-centered as a business. It helps to always be relevant for users and customers.

"What is needed is not so much a holy grail as a holy cocktail bar."

In the journey to become a human-centered company, with the user at the heart of all its operations, directors and managers are asking for the holy grail that will help them innovate. However, when searching for the holy grail a company will never find the right way. What is needed is not so much a holy grail as a holy cocktail bar.

Design thinking can help people to innovate. One of the essential points of design thinking is that it is a toolbox with different tools, not one tool that fits for every solution. This is like a cocktail bar. There are many different components and ingredients and everybody takes what he/she likes or needs. Every company can choose the ingredients that fit the company, shake them, hack them and use them for their own purpose.

"The challenge is finding the right mix at the right moment."

The challenge is finding the right mix at the right moment. The combination of ingredients depends on the needs of the company. The ingredients are simple in themselves, combining them to the perfect mix of design thinking principles should be easy too. Just like with preparing a cocktail, where the challenge lies in finding the perfect combination of ingredients, for companies the the challenge lies in looking for the right balance of ingredients, time and energy. When this is done in the right way, implementing design thinking principles is a task that is both motivating and useful.

Glasses, mixers and ice - 3 essential elements to implement design thinking

In a good cocktail bar three tools are essential: glasses, mixers and ice. The same holds true to successfully change the mindset of employees to a human centered one and implement design thinking principles. When those elements are in place you can look for the right ingredients to create the right cocktails for the right moment. The three essential elements are:

  1. Senior Management Buy-in

  2. Buzz Building

  3. Internalization of new Habits

The lack of any of the three will make the implementation of Design Thinking a difficult task that is set up to fail. Pairing the right tools with the right challenge will help to be more successful in the attempt of changing the culture.

Senior Management Buy-in

Design Thinking is built on the basis of failing fast and trying many different prototypes. If employees are not allowed to make errors or do not get time to experiment in or outside their daily job, it will be difficult to change their behavior. Unfortunately many managers just throw in a training and then expect people to change their behavior on their own. Changing to a human centered organization asks for considerable time and money investment, as well as a culture where failure is allowed.

Buzz Building

Reorganizations used to be big projects in which senior management decided that things had to change. After this decision people were shuffled if necessary and the new strategy was implemented top down. Design thinking asks for a different approach in which employees are given a say. Senior management can still decide what has to be done, but by asking people across the organization how the change can be realized within their specific area surprising improvements might arise. Starting small usually is the easiest way to go. By successfully finishing some projects and taking along different people in the journey, the mentality will be spread through the organization gradually and colleagues will be inspired by their peers.

Internalization of new Habits

Our brains are hardwired to take shortcuts and do what is natural to us. Therefore it is difficult to change a habit. Different studies say different things, but on average it is said to take about 66 days. The new ways have to be practiced often and for a long time to make them come natural.

Design Thinking consists of many different frameworks and activities that can be used for different situations and challenges. Those could be seen as the ingredients list form which to choose depending on the moment and the circumstances.

"The great thing is that the process of design thinking can help to define how the company should start to mix the perfect cocktail."

The great thing is that the process of design thinking can help to define how the company should start to mix the perfect cocktail. Together with the right choices from the ingredients list a tailor made cocktail bar can be made which will be the guide to change for the company. As design thinking is an iterative process, the guide will also be subject to change along the design thinking journey of the company. Employees will be the people at the heart of the journey automatically involving them and getting their buy-in. The end result will be the perfect mix the company and the customer can enjoy.

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