Corporate Habits that Hurt my Design Thinking Heart

PHOTO BY Jonathan Mueller

I worked for Bloomberg Law right before the crash of 2008. My team's purpose was to reinvent financial content - traditionally used by bankers - for legal professionals looking to grow business. We answered questions such as: 'Which companies need better IP protection?' or 'Who might need restructuring counsel?'

My role was to research the legal professional's unmet needs and create tools to help them navigate our systems. Often, one of my colleagues would pull me aside after a sales call and we would scrap together a one-pager that embodied our best guess on what would be useful for the prospective client. 

And then... the reinvention process would stop. All of the time and inventiveness sunk into creating our one-pager was wasted. We wanted to share our idea with potential customers, but it would never see the light of day. I've seen this stop-go phenomenon occur within many established organizations.

Here are some common corporate habits that often lead to a creative shut down, and the design thinking approach to overcome them:

  1. Corporate mindset: Make money and high-profit margins 
    We can't commit resources until we know this is a high-value business offering.

    The Design Thinker's response:
     Make small, incremental investments. 
    Create a short, affordable experiment to test the make-or-break assumptions behind the new offering, then make a bid/no bid decision on committing the next level of investment.

  2. Corporate mindset: High-level finish 
    In order to push a new offering out to customers, it must be branded, beautiful and fully-developed.

    The Design Thinker's response:
    Prototype first 
    Produce your idea in low-fidelity. Try a 2D storyboard or simple sketch. Leave your company's brand out of it (for now)!

  3. Corporate mindset: I don't play here - it's not my silo
    This does not fall within my job category or level - I need to ask my manager and the assigned team for permission.

    The Design Thinker's response:
    Tell a compelling user story to create buy-in "You don't have to take my word for it - here's what I'm hearing from clients, and I really believe in it."

I hold a deep belief that we are all inventors and that the systems we have in place, at times, impede our drive to take that leap of faith and push our offerings to a whole new level. What do you think?