Q&A with UTP Authors Jochen Schweitzer, Sihem BenMahmoud-Jouini, and Sebastian Fixson 

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Transform with Design aims to place design thinking in perspective through a rich tapestry of examples, anecdotes, and lessons. Read the full Q&A interview with the authors, Jochen Schweitzer, Sihem BenMahmoud-Jouini, and Sebastian Fixson here:

What motivated you to write this book? Is there a story behind it?

As scholars and design advocates, we know that the success of new products and services doesn’t simply result from adopting new technologies or processes. Instead, it hinges on achieving a seamless integration of innovation with an organization’s strategy and culture, all within the broader innovation ecosystem. Additionally, in today’s constantly evolving and highly competitive market environments, organizations must possess the capability to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity while crafting business models and refining their strategies to adapt and transform.

The inspiration for this book sprouted from conversations some of us had during a Design Thinking Exchange (DTX) conference – an event facilitating the exchange of knowledge among researchers and practitioners. A recurring pattern emerged upon reflecting on our collective experiences with design thinking: the challenges and obstacles large organizations face when attempting to scale and adapt design thinking for innovation and transformation.

Our discussions revolved around common questions: How can the transformation team secure buy-in from management and the broader organization? What’s the most effective way to instigate a shift in an organization’s mindset or culture? How can we bridge the gap between design thinking efforts and the early stages of product development? How do we engage and involve middle managers? It became apparent that the primary challenge lay not in the innovation process itself but in the organizational context in which it was applied, often characterized by the bureaucratic nature of large, established institutions. In other words, where is the comprehensive guide addressing the management of adaptation of design thinking and realizing its promised benefits? Our inspiration was to contribute to providing such guidance.

Are there any examples, anecdotes, or lessons that stood out to you during the research process of this book?

We quickly found that the stories we wanted to tell existed but remained relatively untold, which led us to write this book to focus on the crucial facets of design thinking implementation. The book is a compilation of case studies enabling individuals to glean insights from others’ experiences and witness how organizations embraced design thinking across various industry contexts. Rather than offering a “copy and paste” recipe or playbook, we aimed to inspire and motivate by showcasing lessons learned, timelines, strategies, failures, and the diverse approaches organizations took as they embarked on their transformation journey with design thinking.

During the research process of the book, we collaborated with nineteen contributors to craft the ten case studies featured in this book. What stood out was how these author teams, comprised of a blend of highly experienced practitioners and scholars, brilliantly narrated their stories of design thinking innovation in which they had been intimately involved.

Their stories showcase how design thinking frequently clashes with existing organizational structures, cultures, and established processes. Unlike conventional approaches to innovation, design thinking demands a shift in mindsets and mental models that embrace user-centricity, ambiguity, risk-taking, and collaboration. Since design thinking challenges the status quo in thought and action, it often encounters skepticism and resistance. Organizations must confront these barriers head-on before achieving success.

What advice or guidance do you believe is essential for every creative organization to possess and implement?

Only recently have managers embraced a design-oriented mindset to tackle complex problems. Over the past decade, design thinking has emerged as a pivotal approach, leveraging design principles to drive innovation, facilitate organizational change, and enhance competitive performance. Today, design thinking has gained recognition across various industries within large multinational and medium-sized companies as an alternative avenue for fostering innovation. However, many organizations still grapple with implementing design thinking, finding it a formidable challenge.

We have authored this book to show why some organizations succeed while others fail to employ design thinking. How have leading global players succeeded in product and service innovation while transforming their organizations to prioritize customer-centricity? We answer these questions through this book by presenting ten compelling case studies.

In our comparative analysis of the case studies, we unearthed intriguing parallels, recurring managerial approaches, factors contributing to success, and obstacles impeding innovation and transformation through design. Through our analysis of such extensive longitudinal data, we distinguished the actions undertaken by managers to attain intended outcomes, focusing specifically on design thinking practices. The cases depicted the implementation of design thinking over several years through its ups and downs. Generally, other publications only show the initial implementation of design thinking and thus, integrating long-term and historical perspectives through the cases was deeply enriching. Further, the book presents seven pivotal lessons tailored for executives and managers embarking on initiating and nurturing an organizational innovation initiative, harnessing design thinking as a catalyst for transformation.

Some lessons adopt an external perspective, emphasizing the roles of change agents, namely the design team. These lessons delve into strategies for garnering support from various sources: from upper management (above), external stakeholders (outside), and employees (below), while also highlighting the potential of educational and training programs in amplifying this support. Other lessons serve as reminders to the design team, underscoring the challenges inherent in the change process. These include maintaining adaptability in applying design thinking tools and methods to specific contexts, committing to the patience and perseverance required for long-term change, and establishing a routine for measuring and communicating progress.

What can your readers hope to take away from Transform with Design?

This book caters to a diverse audience of design thinking practitioners, from beginners eager to explore how design has influenced organizational transformations to seasoned consultants, managers, and innovation leaders seeking to exchange insights and gain a new vantage point from their peers. Each narrative within this book is a testament to the effectiveness – sometimes constrained – of various design strategies and actions within specific contexts. Furthermore, we aspire for this book to be a valuable resource for practitioners, researchers, educators, and students engaged in innovation, design thinking, and organizational transformation. It offers a rich tapestry of examples and anecdotes that contextualize the design thinking methods and tools commonly taught in educational and training programs worldwide.

As scholars in the field of management, we are keen to gain deeper insights into how organizations can overcome the barriers to effectively implement design thinking for innovation and which processes and practices yield the best results. While much of this research typically finds its way into academic journals, our primary objective with this book is to share the firsthand accounts of professionals who have navigated the complexities of implementing design thinking in their organizations.

Through these ten stories, we aim to illuminate how individuals in diverse settings and circumstances have transformed their organizations with design thinking, sustaining their efforts and achieving innovative outcomes. Our contributors offer a personal perspective on the evolution of corporate innovation agendas, offering valuable lessons for anyone facing similar challenges in their professional journey.

Learn more about Transform with Design here.


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