Updated: Jul 7
Design Thinking, a catalyst for organic growth and innovation, offers a practical pathway to success. Just as Total Quality Management (TQM) ensures quality control, Design Thinking places the necessary tools and processes in the hands of business managers. By embracing Design Thinking, businesses can transform ideas into reality, fostering innovation and driving sustainable growth.
Read three books on any topic, and you'll know more about it than 90% of the population.
I am often asked by those who are new to Design Thinking to recommend books, below are the Top 10 on my list.
1. CHANGE BY DESIGN
This is a classic of Design Thinking. The author Tim Brown is a British industrial designer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at IDEO, a global design and innovation consultancy. In this book, Tim explains what Design Thinking is. Design is not just about aesthetics and beautifying the world, Design Thinking is most powerful when it comes to solving abstract and multi-faceted problems. The book lays out a blueprint for how "creative leaders" can bring this problem-solving approach to every aspect of their organization, product, or service, and discover new alternatives for business and society at large.
Tim Brown's definition of Design Thinking:
2. CREATIVE CONFIDENCE
In a world shaped by constant challenges, technology's rapid advancement, particularly AI, raises concerns of job displacement.
However, it is precisely in this evolving landscape that creativity emerges as a critical skill. As machines assume more tasks, our ability to cultivate creative thinking becomes increasingly vital.
Creative Confidence, a catalyst for inspiration and self-growth, provides the motivation needed for individuals to harness their creative potential. Its author, David Kelly, a renowned founding member of IDEO and the esteemed Design School at Stanford University, brings unparalleled expertise to ignite your creative journey.
3. SOLVING PROBLEMS WITH DESIGN THINKING – 10 Stories of What Works
Jeanne was the last and most impressive (in my mind) speaker at the Global Design Thinking Conference in Amsterdam in October 2019. She clearly articulated how Design Thinking as a "social engineering" approach and process can play a big role in innovation.
An accountant by training, Jeanne's fascination with Design Thinking has changed her career trajectory. She is a Professor at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she is actively engaged in pushing Design Thinking to all levels of problem solving.
Design-oriented companies such as Apple and IDEO have shown the world how Design Thinking can impact business results, but many managers are not sure how it can be used beyond product development and sales growth. Jeanne answers the question "Why does Design Thinking work?" with vivid examples of Design Thinking being applied by world renowned companies such as 3M, Toyota, IBM, Intuit, SAP, start-up MeYou Health, government (Dublin City Council), and social service organizations (The Good Kitchen in Amsterdam) to solve a variety of problems.
You can find a number of practical tools in another book co-authored by Jeanne: "Designing for Growth - A Step-by-Step Guide to Projects",
4. THE DESIGN OF BUSINESS – Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage
Roger Martin is a world-class management thinker and leader in bringing Design Thinking to the forefront of business strategy. In 2004, the then Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto said," "I wish business schools enrol more students with liberal arts backgrounds." It was the main reason why I chose Rotman to continue my MBA study, not knowing his vision and ambition to introduce design-driven approaches to revolutionize business education at the time.
It was not until many years later when I went back to Rotman to listen to Roger and Tim Brown's key note, did I learn that the term "Design Thinking" was actually coined in an office on the third floor of the Rotman School in 2003. Now Rotman has an entire program dedicated to Business Design.
"Most companies today yearn to come up with a game-changing innovation like Apple's iPod, or create an entirely new category like Facebook. Many make genuine efforts to be innovative—they spend on R&D, bring in creative designers, hire innovation consultants. But they get disappointing results. Why? In "The Design of Business", Roger Martin offers a compelling and provocative answer: we rely far too exclusively on analytical thinking, which merely refines current knowledge, producing small improvements to the status quo.
To innovate and win, companies need Design Thinking. Martin shows how leading companies use Design Thinking to push knowledge through the stages in ways that produce breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage. Filled with deep insights and fresh perspectives, "The Design of Business" reveals the true foundation of successful, profitable innovation. " (Quote from Amazon)
5. THIS IS SERVICE DESIGN DOING
This is the third book in the series after This is Service Design Thinking and This is Service Design Methods. The reason I recommend this book is: Practicality.
Conceptually and intellectually knowing something is very different from actually doing it. This book brings together the wisdom of Design Thinking experts around the world, led by four leaders, and more than 200 practitioners participated in the proofreading and writing of the book, reflecting the spirit of "co-creation" advocated by Design Thinking in practice. The book details the Design Thinking process, specific methods and use cases.
"Whether you work in a corporation, a government, an SME or a start-up, this book contains everything you need to improve – or revolutionize – the products and services you offer." What's even more thoughtful is that the entire book is available for free download at https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/.
6. DESIGN WORKS
This book pushes above #4 book, The Design of Business, further. "Design thinking can fall short if not fully integrated with the business strategy of the enterprise, mindful stakeholder engagement and the evolution of enterprise management systems."
Businesses push design to the centre not just for aesthetics but to apply the principles and methods of design to work. "This book includes valuable frameworks, inspiring stories and practical tools to drive growth and innovation in any type of organization. Clear principles for leading innovation draw from others' experience to help make the most of enterprise talent and resources." (quote from Amazon)
7. DESIGNING YOUR LIFE
This book takes a personal growth perspective and shows us how to apply design thinking to our daily lives for personal happiness and growth.
The self is not something one finds but creates. The two authors are professors at Standford University's D-School, and their course, Design Your Life, has been one of the most popular courses at Standford. In this book, readers are guided on how to build fulfilling careers and lives .
8. DESIGN DISRUPTS EVERYTHING
This is a remarkable book that exemplifies the essence of Japanese "Design Management". From cover to cover, I found myself captivated by and resonating deeply with its insights.
The author takes a critical look at the lack of design management practices in Japanese companies, drawing inspiration from renowned global companies such as Audi and Porche of Germany, Apple and Google of the United States, Electrolux of Sweden, Dyson of UK, and many others who have successfully implemented design management concepts.
The motivation behind this book lies in the author's desire to empower non-design professionals to recognize and harness the true power of design. The value of design extends far beyond product and service development; it permeates all aspects of work, including management, planning, R&D, marketing, PR, regulatory requirements, and more.
What makes a good design?
Logic = exploring and reconstructing
Senses = sensual extension，intellectual expression
Love = unquantifiable, close to human nature
9. PENCIL ME IN – The Business Drawing Book for People Who Can’t Draw
I like to follow graphic design and drawing books created for non-designers. For those who cannot draw, it's not about drawing better, it’s about seeing better.
Design thinking is not only for designers, and many designers mistakenly believe that Design Thinking is just a hype, no different from other user-centred design concepts. Christina Wodtke, the author of this book, is a world class information architect and product designer, who teaches at Stanford University. Like many designers, she used to think Design Thinking is a hyped up concept, until she discovered the approach works better than nearly any other methods to product and service innovation. How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Design Thinking.
Why do we draw? 1) to communicate; 2) to solve problems better; 3) to remember better.
10. THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY
Authored by Marty Neumeier, known for his acclaimed works "The Brand Gap" and "ZAG", this compact manifesto-like book is very easy to read, a perfect travel companion that holds impressive AHA moments.
“According to the author, traditional managers have relied on a two-step process to make decisions, which he calls "knowing" and "doing." Yet in today's innovation-driven marketplace, managers need to insert a middle step, called "making." Making is a phase in which assumptions are questioned, futures are imagined, and prototypes are tested, producing a wide range of options that didn't exist before. The reader is challenged to consider the author's bold assertion: There can be no real innovation without design.” (Quote from Amazon)
Covered in the book:
The top 10 "wicked problems" that only design can solve
A new, broader definition of design
Why designing trumps deciding in an era of change
How to harness the "organic drivetrain" of value creation
How aesthetics add nuance to managing
16 levers to transform your company
Why you should bring design management inside
How to assemble an innovation meta-team
How to recognize and reward talent
About the Author
You can find me on LinkedIn: Jennifer He.
VOYO is uniquely positioned in English and Chinese-speaking markets across Canada and abroad. We are design and innovation driven marketers and business strategists helping organizations grow as your needs become more sophisticated.