Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation

Design thinking

In the current business world, time given to think and explore is a luxury. Most smaller businesses are forced to be in survival mode, fighting to stay alive from day-to-day in a very competitive environment. Google, however, is known for its whiteboard culture, the envy of other companies. as part of its drive for innovation, its people are given time to draw things out with marker pens, and think.

In a way, Google’s example dovetails with what I had just read in the book “Design Thinking for Strategic Innovations” by Idris Mootee, which highlights the need for a new way of thinking in business.

Design thinking is about the ability to see and make meaningful connections of all the different dots in a very complex and fast moving world. This ability to make meaningful connections between different things is a powerful part of innovativeness. Some call this combinatorial creativity.

Interestingly, Idris points out that this is not about a way of thinking for just a few but for the company as a whole. “Hiring design thinkers is not enough; We need to create design thinking companies.”

Hence the challenge lies in the cultural dimension. Culture, however, doesn’t just happen, it has to be built intentionally. It requires time and a clear focus. It requires investment.

Why would an Internet search company invest so much into its culture? For Google, it is all about one thing: innovation. For Google, this investment has paid off. Google employees have delivered innovative ideas for the company including Gmail, AdSense and Google News.  -Amy Celep, Community Wealth Partners


Design Thinking Applied in the Field

In the last few years, our team has been working on a model for leadership training and community transformation which incorporates design thinking as the engine for innovation and development. Coupled with this is a Midrashic-type of communication system, which allows for our people to do just that.

Scholars have come to realize that Midrash as a form of interpretative expression is not limited to rabbinic exegesis of Scripture.

In his book The Midrashic Imagination – Jewish Exegesis, Thought and History, Michael Fishbane proposed that one of the most compelling and characteristic features of Jewish creativity is its “midrashic imagination.” The practice of Midrash is a powerful way in which creativity is unlocked but it requires a culture conducive to such activities and resources allocated for it. Midrash is the life-blood of innovation and discovery, especially in the field.

What we need now is just time. Time to test our hypothesis and work out an operational kingdom start-up venture so that we have a prototype to showcase.

In the field of agriculture we can clearly see how the adoption of different paradigms create huge impacts for either good or evil. We are familiar with industrial agriculture that has been highly destructive to the environment and people. In the industrial paradigm, the focus is on scale. In contrast, a paradigm based on design thinking, is focused on ecology. Applying design thinking to agriculture would involve the principles of permaculture to understand the interplay of all parts of creation. The outcome would be an abundance that reflects a symphony of life, not the monotone sound of a one-string broken guitar.

With design thinking, even microbes which the human eye can’t see, are considered and recognized for the role they play. And by taking care of even the microbes, we build up an ecology that is inherently sustainable and where every part makes their contribution. Man is task with the most significant role, that of understanding the design for life and overseeing creation.

Boman has this to say of the Hebrews:

Instead of trying to confine Him to limited human definitions and descriptions they focus their efforts on pursuing Him and the character and qualities that determine His makeup. The understanding of the world around them, including God, is to pursue life and God to the fullest, rather than spending time passively trying to define Him. In the pursuit comes the understanding and comes the relationship between the Divine and humanity.

We all have the opportunity to think and live in the way God intended for Man, but it requires humility to study and learn His thoughts on things. This is where God has given us one of the most precious things on earth to guide us, His Torah, the Prophets and Writings. And along with it, a Midrashic culture embedded with the power of Hebraic thought and logic to solve complex problems.

Idris Mootee’s book on Design Thinking has been a conceptual confirmation that we have the right framework and system for developing holistic and sustainable prototype enterprises that empower communities for good.

Leave me a comment, let me know if you found this information useful. Have you applied design thinking in your business or work? Do you have more information on the creative process, hebraic thinking or Midrash?

Let me know …


Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 4.25.48 PMDesign Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School
By Idris Mootee, 2013, John Wiley & Sons

“Design thinking thinking powers strategic innovation.
It can be used to begin at the beginning of an idea or used to unlock hidden value in existing products, services, technologies, and assets – thereby reinvigorating a business without necessarily reinventing it. A disciplined process that can result in significant economic value creation, meaningful differentiation, and improved customer experience.

Design thinking is by nature unorthodox. But it also holds the core capabilities behind innovation.

We are all more connected than we know. Whether its’s business or any other systems-level organizational challenge, design thinking helps us appreciate and make sense of the complex connections between people, places, objects, events, and ideas. This is the most powerful driver of innovation. It’s what guides long-range strategic planning. It’s what shapes business decisions that have to be based on future opportunities rather than past events. It’s what sparks the imagination. And it’s what reveals true value. (p.14)

Hiring design thinkers is not enough; We need to create design thinking companies.

Foreword (Excerpts)

Our world is increasingly complex and difficult to interpret. Multiple forces – technological, regulatory, competitive, and so on – act on a given context to shape the rules of what is possible and probable. Uncovering the most valuable opportunities is increasingly challenging for innovators, especially those using a traditional tool kit. New product development processes typically churn out incremental, me-too solutions when more substantial innovation is needed to capture competitive advantage.

Design thinking helps to anchor innovation on the fundamental drivers of user behaviour, their interactions with the surrounding ecosystem, their interactions with one another.

To embed design principles into an organisation to give it insight into valuable opportunities previously hidden from traditional ways of working.

It provides the framework that encourages a culture of learning and way of working that will enable collaboration, insight, and learning, the allocation of resources to the best opportunities, and ultimately the formation of a more consistent stream of value creation.

This mode of thinking and doing encourages a company culture:

  • Flexibility over conformity
  • Exploration of questions over answers
  • Critical thinking over key assumptions
  • Enablement of teams over organisation structures
  • A focus on doing over studying

This is a different set of capability that is at the core of a company’s growth engine and innovativeness.

Design must allow different factors to coexist in a complementary and symbiotic way.

  • Desirability (product form, user experience, design)
  • Feasibility
  • Economic viability (cost control, efficiency, profit)

Technology exponentially interconnects people, places, and objects in increasingly new ways. Understanding the nature of these interactions both at the physical and emotional level will be required to unlock the value of these complex relationships.

~Erik Roth, Partner at McKinsey, Leads McKinsey’s Global Innovation Practice


Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams defined a mission statement as “a long, awkward sentence that demonstrates management’s inability to think properly.”

We need a new way, one that’s smart, human, cultural, social, and agile and that puts innovation at the core of every move it makes. That way could be design thinking.

Despite pouring millions of dollars into enterprise resource planning systems, however, we can only project three to six months into the future at best with any reasonable accuracy. Why? Because most business leaders are averse to chaos, are overly linear, and are disconnected from global ripples not directly related to the world of business.


2 Replies to “Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation”

  1. I’ve been seeing this truth in my walk with God as I relate Scripture with what our practical economic world is lacking today. I love this piece .. it is brilliant in its summary and discussion, holding just enough breadth and depth for a first time reader to grasp the heart of the whole issue – bringing God’s elegance into our modern world, ie a shift from current foundations to a more sustainable long-term one. Thank you for this ♥️

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