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How to Design Better Solutions

081112a The recent surge in popularity of 'design thinking' really just reflects a elevation of standards in business. Some people are native design thinkers, instinctively seeing issues from the users' angle and anticipating consequences of their design choices. Sadly, most of us have to learn the discipline, and design thinking is a step-up from strategic thinking. Strategic thinking emphasized planning in light of obstacles. Design thinking emphasizes double-checking to make sure you're solving the real problem, then iterating through a process of creating and testing possible solutions. When marketing and selling problems are solved with design thinking, solutions are attached to identified outcomes for the customer, not some vague commitment to 'doing the right thing.'

BusinessWeek: IBM Reshapes Its Sales Meetings, 2008-Nov-10, by Reena Jana

At IBM's briefing center, staff members now have extremely detailed guidelines of what to show and tell at a given time. Before, the company had no standardized model of how to pitch clients. Instead, sales staff had to rely on their own intuition, with varying degrees of success. In fact, Green likes to tell a story of a sales meeting gone wrong to explain why he came up with the new strategy to redesign the client briefings. "One set of clients was picked up by an outside driver, who was hired to bring them from the airport to an IBM briefing center in the rain. But the driver couldn't find IBM," he recalls.

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