What is the Design Mindset?

A Design Mindset is one of the skills listed in the Institute For The Future (IFTF) Future Work Skills 2020 report and while it’s still relatively new it’s a mindset that is increasingly being adopted in many different occupations and industries beyond the visual.

Linda Naiman, founder of Creativity at Work, believes that incorporating a design mindset into product creation makes the end products more desirable to customers. She suggests that adopting a design mindset can also increase the appeal of services for users.

The data backs up Naiman’s assertions with a recent assessment from the Design Management Institute demonstrating that many of the most prominent design led companies like Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola have shown the highest performance over the last decade.

The IFTF defines the design mindset as the “ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes,” while Linda Naiman prefers to think of it as a solution focused strategy for decision-making and problem solving. This process, according to Naiman, draws on logic, intuition, imagination and systemic reasoning to explore possibilities and create desired outcomes that benefit the user.

The design mindset works by understanding customers’ needs, especially those that are unmet and unarticulated, and then creating something that meets those needs. It places the end user at the centre of the picture, unlike previous product-centred mindsets.

Design thinking is something we are starting to see a great deal in the technology that surrounds us every day, with increasing numbers of products incorporating design features that not only look great but are also intuitive and easy to use.

Linda Naiman outlines her process of strategic thinking using the design mindset, the same process that designers use, but one that can be applied to problem solving in general. This process is more fluid than traditional problem solving systems and relies strongly on customer feedback and a collaborative approach.

Adopting a design mindset can increase innovation and creativity according to Naiman. History has shown us that organisations with the ability to innovate are often the ones that end up successful. Taking the time now to develop a design mindset and a fluid, design based approach to problem solving is likely to pay off greatly in the future.

Different tasks require a different approach, as the IFTF points out. Recognising which types of tasks require which types of thinking and setting up a work environment that helps effectively accomplish the task at hand is a key skill for future success.

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