Design Thinking at the Weatherhead School

Design Thinking at the Weatherhead School

Recently I had a chance to share with our corporate partners my thoughts on design and how we approach it at the Weatherhead School.

Design Thinking Q+A with Youngjin Yoo

There is no industry I can think of that does not require innovation in today’s economy. Every senior executive I have interacted with over the last 10 years or so says that innovation is one of the most important strategic issues they are facing. Design allows them to rethink what they do and what they offer to the market—whether it is tangible artifacts or intangible systems. Design thinking is not a superficial way to make your product look nicer, or your web or application interface more user-friendly. Instead, it allows you to revisit the fundamental meaning and value of what you offer and, in turn, create value in a new way. Even if you make the most mundane commodity, that commodity has a symbolic meaning, affords certain actions or represents complex thoughts behind it. By discovering those meanings and values, we are able to find new ways to innovate. In fact, I would argue that those industries are the most exciting context to apply design thinking.

Design is often mistaken as a superficial gimmick: how to make our products look good, how to make our service more delightful, and how to change our packaging. All of these are correct. However, design is much more fundamental. What Steve Jobs did at Apple, for example, was not just a superficial gimmick. He built an organization that operates with a fundamentally different DNA, centered around design. Although Apple has a relatively small professional design team, everyone in the company feels he or she is a designer, whether in engineering or marketing. It is no accident that every product has an engraving of “Designed by Apple.” Apple sees itself as a design company.

 As design thinking becomes popular, the biggest risk I see is companies embracing design thinking as a shallow, gimmicky, short-term solution. With design as a short-term goal, these companies may see gains, but they will not experience the type of growth and success Apple and Samsung have enjoyed. In order to generate substantial and sustained gains via design thinking, companies must see design as one of their core capabilities, integrating it into all aspects of their business operation and treating it as an essential element of leadership. I believe what we offer at Weatherhead provides these fundamental insights and tools to our partners.

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Professor | Writer | Teacher Digital Innovation, Design, Organizational Genetics Case Western Reserve University
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2 thoughts on “Design Thinking at the Weatherhead School

  1. You are so kind many thanks for that! I like that it really shows that you care about your clients’ for me that’s’ very important.

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