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Design Thinking is Dead. Long Live Design Thinking.



Sean Carney

I remember a few years ago, every conference I went to featured a talk about Design Thinking. The term, which refers to how companies tackle problem solving in co-creative and multidisciplinary teams using a fast-paced and iterative approach, possibly got a bit over-used. Then, user experience and digital innovation started grabbing the headlines, and Design Thinking started to fall by the side.


But in a connected world, I'd argue that Design Thinking is more important than ever. Think about it. Some of the most awe-inspiring products and solutions on the market right now are hooked up to the internet. They use data streams to enhance the experience of the user, and evolve and grow over time. To create these increasingly complex innovations means we have to work fast, by capturing multiple insights and translating them into viable solutions even faster.

To do that, we need a healthy mix of people to get involved in the innovation process. No single designer, or even team of designers, can ever hope to understand all the facets of a particular subject. Instead, we need insights from engineers, researchers and marketeers from inside the company, to name just a few, not to mention external partners and end users. Our role as designers is to orchestrate this process and connect the dots by empathizing with our customers and each person in the innovation team. One of our established design tools we use is the Experience Flow, which helps us to keep the practical and emotional needs of end-users at the center of innovation.

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Today, that's more essential than ever as we start to think beyond individual connected products and towards entire eco-systems of interconnected products and services. By this I mean groups of innovations that together offer users a whole new set of experiences. Think smart homes, where connected lights, TVs, or kitchen devices can communicate with one another, adjust to the time of day, the weather, matching your personal needs. Or smart healthcare, where data from MRI or X-ray systems around the world can be shared and compared to help clinicians make faster and better diagnoses.


More than ever, we need to work in a way that mirrors the innovations we want to create. With this in mind, we are getting ready to launch an internal Design Thinking program that I think will unleash the co-creative potential within Philips.


We're not talking about endless training workshops of randomly mixed teams discussing theoretical issues (I think that's a guaranteed way to ensure that people forget what they've learned within a week). Instead, we're bringing together multidisciplinary teams made up of people we think can tackle real life business challenges. Our focus is above all on design doing, and we aim to use approaches like Rapid Co-creation to find solutions that are immediately applicable to different aspects of the business.


When we ran a pilot program for sales teams in our Healthcare sector in Singapore and Eindhoven in late 2013, it was more successful than we anticipated; in just a few days, we pinpointed new ways to build better relationships with our clients, and are already using the solutions to great effect in their day-to-day work.  


The program is set to launch in April. We expect this journey will ensure that Design Thinking not only lives, but really helps Philips achieve its goal of delivering innovation that matters.


Who says Design Thinking is dead?

SeanCarney hr

Sean Carney  

Chief Design Officer  

Sean Carney is Chief Design Officer for Philips and Chief Design Officer for Philips Consumer Lifestyle. As the head of the design competence across the company, he is leading global teams delivering insight-driven, meaningful innovation which bring value to people and business.


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