Strategy firm preaches design thinking for innovation

A new business strategy firm is holding a series of seminars and workshops on design thinking and how it can be used to increase innovation.

Pensito was formed in February as a joint venture between Elizabeth Rudd of FutureNous and Maree Conway of Thinking Futures and is holding two events on design thinking this month in Brisbane and Melbourne.

Conway told CIO there is much talk about design thinking – including a lot of books and press coverage – but few people know what is it and how it can help innovation.

“Design thinking is very similar to strategic foresight, hence the intersection theme of the seminars,” Conway said. “It’s kind of like the latest fad, but it is not. It surfaced in the academic journals and design companies. People are seeing it as a way to think differently about what you do and how you do it.”

Conway said people in the business community know what design thinking is, but view it as “the new kid on the block”.

“Other people will say design thinking is about art and ‘we don’t need that’, but when you get into it is quite useful,” she said.

The seminars are aimed at senior business leaders, including CIOs, who can discuss new products, new operations and new systems for their organisations.

“Rather than creating strategy on what we have today, it’s about exploring what the future may be like,” Conway said. “The GFC hit people in the face, but there were many signals it was coming. We tend to be happy and comfortable where we are so we don’t look at things that may disrupt where we are.”

“We want people to think differently about future strategies. Futurists have been around for a long time, but our work is about integrating the future into existing strategies – and not many organisations do that systematically.”

Conway worked in the higher education sector for 30 years, with recent planning management roles at Swinburne and Victoria universities.

“Technology is a major driver of a whole lot of change in organisations, but it shouldn’t be the only driver as there are a whole lot of other issues,” she said. “People in IT understand the need to look ahead, so in some ways IT understands this.”

“If you spend a bit of time thinking about changing IT in future you can link it with your strategy.”

Conway encourages CIOs to adopt more than a three or five-year timeline for strategic planning and recommends changing business today so it can prepare for new technology developments.

For an introduction to design thinking, Conway recommends the Harvard Business Review paper Design Thinking by Tim Brown, CEO of design consultancy IDEO.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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