Design Thinking is making an impact in sales

Learn all about how design thinking is impacting sales. Here, co-founder David Kester is interviewed for Raconteur’s Sales Performance report for the Times, by Charles Orton-Jones.

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Originally a way to brainstorm creative challenges, the philosophy of design thinking has a new home in sales departments.

It can be exhausting to keep up with fads in management thinking. Remember theory Z, which promoted a Japanese-style approach to motivation? Or how about one minute m anagement ? At least that had the allure of being brief. Now there’s a new one. Design thinking is the latest thing in sales. So what is design thinking? In a nutshell it’s about getting sales people to think like designers. Bonkers? Not according to the likes of IBM, Salesforce, Google and Amazon, all of which have embraced the philosophy.

“It’s origins are 150 years of design education,” says David Kester, co-founder of the Design Thinkers Academy London, where dozens of blue chips have sent their salespeople to learn the art. “You see design thinking at the Royal College of Art and in the Parsons School of Design in New York; it is practised at the Stanford University [design school].” If you want a single-line summary, Mr Kester offers: “It is harnessing the tools and methods of designers for non-designers.”

The longer explanation runs like this. There are five components to design thinking.

Define the problem.

Now the sales team must focus all known information on to a single objective. But which objective? Again, this requires a degree of creativity. What does the company want to achieve? Which sales goals are realistic?

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Salespeople are likely to enjoy the power and freedom offered by design thinking. It draws on their creativity in ways they may never have experienced.

Greg Taylor, chief provocation officer at Elmwood, a brand experience agency, says: “One recent study written up in the Harvard Business Review , for example, showed contact centre staff allowed to flex and experiment to meet customers needs, rather than stick to a rote script. Within four months they achieved targets twice as fast as a control team that used a tactical approach. Freedom and a remit to think on their feet and experiment to be more responsive made a world of difference.”

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We’re the UK arm of the Design Thinkers Academy. Using design thinking, we help embed new ways of approaching complex problems.

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