Is design thinking strategic or tactical? The answer is YES. It all depends on how you use it as to whether or not it is strategic or tactical. The most common use of design thinking is to solve a tangible, specific problem with a specific solution. Usually this falls under the umbrella of some other strategy choice previously made. In this common application, design thinking is a tool or tactic. A typical “tactical use” of design thinking at the end of a strategic planning process. I am more energized by the use of design thinking as a strategic guide. In this approach, you are using design thinking earlier. First, design thinking’s tools for framing and empathy can help an organization do a more thorough job of assessing the current landscape. This can help you set a more stretching (or realistic) overall objective. Next design thinking helps you discover what the opportunities are, helping a team think beyond the typical default strategic choices. Once you have explored how to accomplish your goals, the ideas and data can be grouped, patterned and synthesized into to strategic choices. This strategic approach to design thinking is less commonly used, yet it so naturally fits within the typical strategy development processes used by so many. Once your strategies have been identified, you can again leverage the tool as noted in the first chart above to develop tangible solutions for the strategies to come to life. Design Thinking is a flexible approach and has the power to stretch our thinking not only on tangible ideas to execute on our business but also on how to set our aspirations and strategies. One word to the wise though: despite design thinking’s flexibility not all skilled design thinking experts are equally skilled on the strategic application. So, if you want to try this approach, be sure to leverage someone that has applied design thinking in this way before.
Consider your strategy development process. How might design thinking leveraged up front be useful to your business? Want to learn more, feel free to call me to explore.