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d.schools vs. b-schools: New School of Thought?

d.schools vs. b-schools: New School of Thought?

A different perspective often yields new and better results. "Design thinking" opens additional avenues for observing facts and associating seemingly unrelated ideas to arrive at powerful new business solutions. 

Three years ago I re-examined pursuits and results of both my retail ivy league education at IKEA and Pottery Barn, and my equally treasured private equity boot camp. Tough introspection yielded key insights to both, failures inside awesome successes and treasures inside the inevitable failure or two. I embrace the perspective gained and use it to bend up the curve of my trajectory as merchant and marketer for global brands (and wholesalers selling to them). It helped me position (re)ALIGN for something more holistic that adds more value than merchandising and marketing alone: I learned to be a business builder, and have built my clients' businesses ever since. Building requires aligning both worlds—the analytical with the creative, the engine with the fuel—so customers and producers connect, so building and fulfilling the promise align profitably. I knew this in my head long ago, but now I understand it in my heart. 

Concepts I use to build new 8-figure businesses quickly—creating significant enterprise value for clients in the USA and China—are described in this WSJ article about "design thinking". 

Here are highlights of the concept and a thought-provoking chart:

Stanford University's—the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design—has gained recognition in recent years for introducing the trendy, but murky, problem-solving concept known as "design thinking" to executives, educators, scientists, doctors and lawyers. The was launched in 2005—one of the first of its kind—with help from a $35 million donation by SAP AG co-founder Hasso Plattner, who has said he was inspired to spread the practice after reading a magazine article about global consultancy IDEO, a leader in design thinking. Now other schools are coming up with their own programs.

Design thinking uses close, almost anthropological observation of people to gain insight into problems that may not be articulated yet. For example, researchers may study the habits of shoppers waiting to pay for groceries in order to create a more efficient checkout system that maximizes last-minute purchases while keeping customers moving quickly.

Traditionally, companies have relied on focus groups to get feedback on products that were already in development. With design thinking, potential solutions—products, processes or services—are modeled, often using simple materials like markers and pipe-cleaners, then tested and quickly adjusted based on user feedback.

Still not everyone is an advocate. Some say slapping the design-thinking tagline on new initiatives is "good marketing" because it is vague enough to apply quite broadly, but has little real meaning. "Design is an act of making, so the idea of design thinking is paradoxical."(I wonder if this person thinks the act of making or building a business happens without thinking?)

Executives at Fidelity became converts of design thinking after working on a project with a class in 2006 that focused on getting people, especially younger people, to contribute more to their savings accounts. In that project, students learned that baby boomers fondly remembered their first savings accounts and bankbooks, but younger savers didn't have such a tangible connection to banking. In response, Fidelity created an online feature that mimicked old-fashioned bankbooks. Fidelity said the online feature helped users track their savings and provided positive reinforcement and motivation for savers.

I have witnessed and created similar, bigger successes of design thinking with my professional heroes at IKEA, Pottery Barn, Apple, Starbucks, and (re)ALIGN clients that connect products and services with paying customers. What opportunities are challenging your business that design thinking ( concepts at right half of the chart) can help define and scale? 

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