design thinking
Is design thinking the bedrock of success for many of the world's leading companies? Source: Brittany Hosea Small/AFP

What do globally renowned companies like Apple, Nike and Bank of America have in common? All three organisations — despite their vastly different backgrounds and services — have applied design thinking with success.

Design thinking can be defined as a process in which individuals or companies use to solve a myriad of problems more efficiently. 

This methodology has a wide range of applications. For example, design thinking could be used to help companies understand their customers or users better, improve business processes, and create new products or services that solve real-world problems, among a host of other things.

Companies use design thinking to unlock business value 

Companies have much to gain from applying design thinking.

Roger Martin, former Dean of Rotman School and author of The Design of Business, has been quoted saying: “Design thinking firms stand apart in their willingness to engage in the task of continuously redesigning their business… to create advances in both innovation and efficiency – the combination that produces the most powerful competitive edge.”

Many of the world’s Fortune 500 companies use design thinking to give them a competitive edge. Nike, for instance, doesn’t only use the design thinking approach into creating its products — it also uses this methodology to develop talent

Apple is also known for applying design thinking to its products. The company’s co-founder Steve Jobs’ drive to produce simple, minimalist products, made it a powerful global brand.

Design thinking is taught by many world-leading universities, such as INSEAD, MIT and Harvard. Here are some online and executive education courses on the topic:

Design Thinking: Leading Strategic Innovation

This executive education programme from the New York University (NYU) provides students with an overview of design thinking and focuses on the frameworks and tools needed to effectively apply this method to uncover compelling, innovative solutions to complex problems. 

“We will review and discuss theories, practices and methods of design thinking, and learn to sprint through the five stages of the design thinking process: empathising, defining the problem/challenge, ideating, prototyping and testing,” said NYU.

There are no formal education or background requirements required to enrol in the course, but it is designed for professionals with five or more years of work experience.

Design Thinking and Creativity for Business

This online programme by INSEAD aims to help individuals transform their mindset and “to think creatively like a designer with the strategic capabilities of a businessperson.” 

It is infused with experiential learning opportunities and features design coaches who are practitioners with ample training and experience in sparking innovation through industrial design.

Students also have the opportunity to put theory into practice via INSEAD’s Action Learning Project (ALP), a personalised experience with design coaches to guide and provide students with feedback using a design-based approach throughout the process. 

Design Thinking for Innovation

This highly-rated course by the University of Virginia on Coursera aims to provide enrollees with an overview of design thinking and work with a model containing four key questions and several tools to help them understand design thinking as a problem-solving approach. 

“We also look at several stories from different organisations that used design thinking to uncover compelling solutions,” it notes online.

Upon completion, students can expect to understand what design thinking is and when to use it, how to prepare to see and take action when the opportunity arises, how to use design thinking to generate innovative ideas, and how to take ideas and determine which ones are likely to produce specific, desired outcomes.