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In his latest book, Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons, author Jay Greene shares insights from designers, CEOs and strategists. Case studies of Porsche, Nike, LEGO, OXO, REI, Clif Bar, Ace Hotels and Virgin Atlantic provide separate yet similar looks into design cultures of the companies and their customers.

A key element of these successful design approaches is for the company to truly listen and empathize with their customers, to understand their needs and how the products and/or services fit into the context of their lifestyles.

Rather than stay inside safe and conservative parameters, company leaders were also willing to take risks that might result in failure, and were able to accept, admit and grow from those failures when they happened. In other words, they employed Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is a way to solve any problem.

A hallmark takeaway from the book is the rise of Design Thinking as an approach to overall business strategy and consumer engagement that extends well beyond traditional ideas of where design is supposed to fit within the model.

Design Thinking combines empathy, creativity and rationality to solve problems in a balanced way.

Most folks think of design as an applied art, as an action or expression that occurs after someone else analyzes, deduces and solves a problem. The issue with this approach is that analytical thinking does not bear much innovative fruit. The act of design is then reduced to simply translating and expressing a derivative idea, product or experience.

Last year, Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, presented on this very subject at the annual AIGA Design Conference. His presentation (watch the video, download a presentation PDF) delved into contrasts between two dominant styles of thinking: Analytical and Intuitive. He argues that the process of design (Design Thinking) balances the two approaches and confers competitive advantages to businesses.

Design not only concerns itself with the expression of things but can and should play a central role in actually defining them (that's the "thinking" part). What's required is:

Here at Designsensory, Design Thinking is something we are very passionate about. It is our design process and something we advocate to prospects and deliver to customers. Design Thinking infuses creative ideas seamlessly into all aspects of our process---business planning, visual communications, technology, strategy and content development---allowing us to deliver greater value to our customers and their end-users.