When Thinking Wrong Is Right
Here at Grisko, we pride ourselves on our expertise, collaboration and creativity. With an agency that represents varied disciplines like Public Relations, Public Affairs and Marketing—when is the right time to include “Design Thinking” into the process of resolving issues for clients?
Answer: As soon as possible.
Historically, design has been treated as a near-end process where designers have played no substantial role in strategy and are asked to “make it look good.” While aesthetics are imperative, and often increase brand equity with smart, attractive advertising and communication strategies, more can be achieved by transposing the process.
Tim Brown’s article, “Design Thinking” in the Harvard Business Review defines the opportunity as, “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with a viable business strategy that can convert into customer values and market opportunities.”
So, what can this mean for clients?
One recent example comes from KFC in the U.K. when the brand had all the makings of a PR crisis: The fast food chain faced sweeping store closures due to an unexpected poultry shortage. The brand’s agency, Mother London, approached the problem with laser focus on the brand’s irreverent tone and simply rearranged the letters of their logo. Most stunning of all, they then prominently placed “FCK” on the front of an empty chicken bucket and created a poster series that was deployed in print, out of home and social media. Paired with sincere and authentic apology messaging, the response was not only well received in the U.K., but picked up two gold Cannes Lions in the PR and print categories, further confirming that collaboration is key and Design Thinking is more than a pretty wrapper. Instead, Design Thinking proves to be a perfect pairing to PR and crisis communications.John Bielenberg, the founder of Future, Project M and Think Wrong, applies Design Thinking in every initiative he takes on, but describes the practice slightly differently. His mission is to shatter the status quo by guiding teams and organizations through workshops that help create new pathways of innovation.
I had the good fortune of leading John’s Project M team in Maine, soon after finishing grad school—and the philosophy of Think Wrong continues to inform my creative process to this day. One compelling element I learned from the Think Wrong experience was that our brains create a network of pathways that enable us to make snap decisions throughout the day. Getting dressed, making breakfast and driving to work, for example, all represent the traditional pathways that enable everyone to get from “A to B.” They become essential pathways that foster our ability to move through life. At the same time, however, they also represent the essence of status-quo thinking. The same kind of linear thinking that helps us easily navigate our complex world is not the kind of thinking that disrupts brand categories or motivates people to make different choices. As designers, it remains our job to crack open something new.
Below are some devices that can help steer a process away from “business as usual” norms:
- Be Bold: Are you thinking big enough? Set the bar high.
- Get Out: Get out of your patterns of working and orthodoxies. Go where you’ve never been before.
- Let Go: Let go of preexisting ways of solving problems.
- Make Stuff: Often times when working with various groups, ideas can be dismissed before they ever see the light of day. Make prototypes to get beyond this.
- Bet Small: Taking big risks are scary, but framing them as small bets is more digestible. By placing small bets you can try something new and learn from the results, which can alleviate some of that initial stress.
- Move Fast: After you have placed small bets, create momentum around the project by moving quickly.
The objective of Design Thinking is not to formulate solutions that are crazy or wacky, but rather, identify solutions that are appropriate and innovative—exactly why on our team we initiate this process at the start.