When I was an up and comer in the tech industry I helped to design the user interface for a data entry system that was cutting edge for the day. Instead of having to know a set series of commands to perform a function, we had ICONS on the screen. You could CLICK on them, and they would take you where you wanted to go within the operating system. It was so cool.

Seems silly now. In those days, and I am not saying when those days were, things were evolving, but when I left the tech industry, Steve Jobs and Apple were just beginning to capture people’s hearts with his new devices. He was one of the first in the new world of design thinking.  Design thinking though is not simply about the look of things, rather it’s a mindset that some people simply don’t understand.

It’s like when I help people with their social media campaigns. There go to is the old standby of saying “buy my product, it’s better, faster and everything you need”. Things have changed, and nothing shows us that more than watching how young people interact. They instinctively understand things that older folks struggle with. They live differently than even the current generation of parents did. Connected, not talking on the phone much, sometimes not even using texting the same way.

It used to be that IBM was the big dog in mainframe technology, and Microsoft was the big dog in desktop computing, and that has changed..now these former heavyweights are trying to stay in the game, but in order to do that, their whole way of thinking needs to change. As it does for all of our businesses if we wish to stay relevant:

“Jing Cao /

July 25, 2016 — 7:00 AM EDT

A few months ago, senior executives at Vodafone’s Irish division sat down with a 16-year-old boy to ask him about his daily routine and, specifically, how he uses his smartphone. The kid told them that the first thing he does in the morning is check Snapchat. On the way to school, Snapchat. On the way home, Snapchat. Sometimes he stops by an ice cream shop, picks up frozen yogurt bars, and uses the free Wi-fi to upload videos onto, yes, Snapchat. No, he didn’t know what network he used and had never seen a Vodafone commercial (because young people don’t watch TV). Only his mom calls or texts him. What about contacting friends? Snapchat.

The meeting’s hosts, a team from International Business Machines Corp.’s services division, watched their guests’ befuddled expressions and judged the workshop a resounding success. IBM had been hired to help guide a digital transformation at Vodafone Ireland and wanted the wireless carrier’s senior management to get the unvarnished truth from a flesh-and-blood customer who didn’t care about their brand (or their feelings). Later, IBM would use insights from the kid and other customers to build products that—hopefully—people actually want to use.
The Vodafone executives had just received a crash course in “design thinking,” a philosophy embraced wholesale by the tech services industry, which is struggling to avoid being disrupted by slick, intuitive apps from Slack and Salesforce even as its traditional business managing corporate IT goes away. Design thinking sounds like a slogan concocted by a management consultant. In fact, it’s a problem-solving approach used by designers for decades. And it’s hard to argue with the goal, which boils down to knowing what your customers want. That’s not a skill that comes naturally to the engineers who build software for big corporations. But in a world filled with user-friendly smartphone apps, clunky enterprise software is no longer tenable.
So to shake up the status quo, IBM, Cognizant, Infosys, and others have been racing to hire thousands of designers who once would have taken more specialized jobs—at an ad agency, say, or an industrial-design shop. At IBM, they team up with engineers and consultants and embed with a multiplicity of clients. Besides providing customer insights, the teams encourage constant feedback and tweak products as they’re built—a process aimed at getting them out faster. It’s how successful Silicon Valley startups operate but radical for the IT services industry.
“Everyone is thinking about how to infuse design thinking more effectively into offerings,” says Phil Fersht, who founded HfS Research and focuses on the industry. “It’s about reimagination.” By next year, he says, most technology service contracts will include design thinking, often at clients’ behest.”

What is design thinking for your company? I don’t know for sure what it is for mine, but you can bet I am going to read and learn more about this. Does anyone want to get together for a design thinking chat?


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