From design thinking to strategic design

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

Rolling luggage is not just a better version of 'traditional' luggage.

Creativity has finally entered the world of business. More and more companies appreciate the contribution that design brings to their innovation effort.

Organisations thinking about their customers purely as final users are missing a great opportunity in their attempt to strengthen their competitive advantage: co-creation.

Co-creation implies that customers become an active participant (partner) in the creation of a new product/service. Co-creation is becoming a common practice in many industries.

A question still needs to be answered though: does the customer know what we should produce?

Probably not. I mean, sure, make your product cheaper, faster and more reliable, and your clients are pleased.

Observing the customers (in their native environment) rather than listening to them is the starting point for co-creation. There is no need for design thinking to discover that clients want a better version of your current product.

Thinking like a designer, therefore, help us to spot un-articulated customers' needs.

Un-articulated needs are real, but customers are not able to put them into words, they are unable to process them.

We can certainly use design thinking to solve a well-recognised clients' problems. Design thinking though is particularly useful when we try to re-frame the issue our customers face.

Here is where design thinking meets business strategy.


Shifting the perception of your customers' problem means, in business strategy, differentiating your product and service from your competitors.

Before luggage was on wheels, the opportunity for growth was hardly creating a better / lighter bag - any company could have done that! Instead, sustainable growth required luggage companies to stop thinking about baggage (as they did up to that moment in time), and start thinking about mobility (re-framing).

Without this shift in perception, luggage manufacturers competed mostly on price.

In our attempt to grow sustainably we can no longer look at our business strategy, creativity and design as separate entities.

Today, as innovators, we need to enhance our ability to grow sustainably from three different but intertwined perspectives:

  1. Strategy: can we serve that specific customer or set of customers? Are we uniquely well equipped to do so?

  2. Creativity: shifting the perception of our customer problem. From the obvious (better / lighter luggage) to mobility.

  3. Design: from the new perception of a problem, to value creation.


It comes without saying that the first challenge in starting a new organic growth initiative is to bring the different people (different perspectives) on the same page. And this, I’m afraid, is the job of the leader.

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STEFANO MESSORI - DESIGN STRATEGIST - REMOTE TRAINER & FACILITATOR - DUBLIN (IRELAND)

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