Leveraging Design Thinking in the C-Suite

Developing business strategies in the c-suite comes with a myriad of challenges, especially when the individuals are all highly experienced but with incompatible strategic development processes. The c-suite is often thought of as reluctant to embrace change and that it favors analytical thinking over intuition, losing sight of customer needs. In-touch executives will know that innovation and disruption are key to staying relevant. The c-suite can benefit hugely from the inclusion of design-orientated thinkers, whether it’s a Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Customer Officer or Chief Design Officer.

Design thinking isn’t new, but many people are still unsure of how to leverage it to incorporate it into their business strategy to instigate growth. In a nutshell, design minded executives focus on what ultimately matters the most: the customer. When boiled down, the customer is what drives the business and is the element on which the bottom line is dependent. Finding new ways to engage, retain, delight and convert your customers is the key to a sustainable business, and the core of design thinking. .

Design thinking is an approach to business that helps solve complex problems and solutions across any business industry. While design is often used to describe an object or end result it is in reality a process, an action, for discovering new opportunities. When applied properly it can be a powerful tool in business or brand success. It defines the way companies function at their roots – how it relates to users, how it prototypes products and how it assesses risk. For the functioning of the c-suite to improve, company’s leaders need to adopt the following design thinking qualities:

  1. Curiosity

Design thinking by nature encourages the exploration of many possibilities that can lead to fresh solutions, enliven the boardroom and develop proactive strategies that connect with consumers.

  1. Diplomacy

Designers often act as the middleman, and as such have to juggle the interests of multiple stakeholders. They are tasked with finding common ground between disparate opinions, which is a valuable tool for the c-suite. By putting ego aside they are better equipped to objectively broker solutions that marry consumer needs and corporate mission.

  1. Risk tolerance

Members of the c-suite have a lot at stake, and therefore gravitate towards risk-averse solutions or strategies. Design thinkers on the other hand advocate for bold new ventures, which inherently come with more risk but also breathe fresh life into your company morale and bottom line.

  1. Salesmanship

As mentioned above, design thinkers have an ability to broker deals between parties, and therefore have the skills to convince and persuade. Design orientate people spend their careers in a highly competitive environment being forced to be disruptive and having to frame new ideas for transformation.

  1. Vision

Quite simply, designers know how to make something from nothing. They can visualize a fully-fledged idea out of nothing and bring it to fruition. An idea is useless unless it delivers value and designers are constantly measured on ROI.

  1. Empathy

Designers don’t just make pretty things, they understand the thinking and psychology that controls our behaviour and responses and leverage them to trigger desired actions. This makes them able to see through the gaps in the consumer pathways which is crucial to a watertight customer-focused strategy.

Design is not just about creating impactful visuals, but about engaging strategic thinking and solving problems creatively. Redesigning your c-suite with this in mind doesn’t need to be a major reconfiguration. Rather be cognizant of the value and experience a design thinker can bring to the table during your next hire, and adjust your skill requirements during your next executive search. 

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This article was written by Sarah Mason, Social Media Strategist at Business Essentials for Executive Headlines