Are You a “Design Thinker?” (Clue: It’s Not Just for Designers)

August 31, 2017 - 4 Comments

Have you heard the term, “Design Thinking?”  Cisco and other forward thinking companies are investing in tools and teams to create Design Thinking frameworks, and spread Design Thinking methods further and faster across their companies. Design Thinking is not just for designers. It’s an approach to problem-solving and innovation that can be employed by any business or function to achieve extraordinary results.

At its core, Design Thinking is about empathy. It encourages looking first at people (users) of the solution to the problem you are trying to solve, instead of jumping into solving the problem right away. It tells us to take a human-centric point of view, which is often overlooked by conventional problem-solving practices.
Design Thinking also changes our view of the design process. It promotes a build-to-test, iterative approach to the whole design process. Design thinkers acknowledge and preserve ambiguity. They use prototypes as their communication media.

Design Thinking puts user concerns first to achieve strong project results

During the recent Cisco Live, we had the opportunity to discuss both the philosophy of Cisco Design Thinking and the practice of design taking place within multiple Cisco groups. Our panelists included Susie Wee, David Sward, Hallgrim Sagen, Michael Kopcsak, Dale Henninger, Matt Cutler, and myself. Please take a moment to watch a video of our Cisco Live “Design Thinking” panel discussion. I think you’ll like it.


Watch the video of the Design Thinking panel discussion at Cisco Live

Do software application developers and network infrastructure developer need Design Thinking? Yes, of course. Developers are making many decisions every single day, and not every development team has designer support. Leveraging a Design Thinking approach can help development teams build applications with a better user experience. For example, when designing an API for a product, they can look at who are the people who are going to use it? What is their background, skill level, need? Is the end user is going to use this API together with other Cisco API? If so, offering a consistent resource structure would be really helpful. If it’s more for an internal team use, perhaps a message queue would be a good alternative to mitigate any “fire and forget” issue with the API.

During last week’s Cisco GSX conference, Chris Lunsford and I conducted workshop sessions on how to design solutions that customers want to buy. We showed Cisco system engineers and account managers how applying design thinking to a specific customer scenario can solve customer problems faster and generate better results.

At DevNet, we recently launched the Opportunity Project in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Like so many initiatives designed to address social challenges, it’s a project that benefits greatly from Design Thinking, as it’s a project that will impact people and their lives. Using Design Thinking to build deep empathy with end users and related parties will bubble up high-impact solutions that cross traditional sector boundaries. I’d like to invite you to check out the Opportunity Project yourself. It’s a great way to participate in creating solutions that help families, local leaders, and businesses access information about the resources they need to succeed.

The Design Thinking workshop attracts a standing room only audience at GSX.

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  1. Great point! love to see and try how design thinking methodology can drive application development and solution building for our customers

  2. Great article! Also, love this DevNet panel discussion. Really nice to know the Cisco design thinking.
    I’ve got the same experience in software development where leveraging a design thinking approach can help development teams build applications with a better user experience. We need to encourage people to look beyond the problem of who are the users behind it/ what they need/ how we can meet the needs with technology visibility and to make sure we are doing the right thing. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Excellent post Edwin! Design Thinking is applicable to anyone creating ‘things’ that are intended to fill a want/need. For Cisco SEs and customer and partner DevOps engineers: the design thinking tools and framework are the critical bridge that enable us to apply the toolsets of APIs and programmability to new problem domains. Result -> Real Solutions to Real Challenges|Opportunities