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Design Your Thinking: The mindsets, toolsets and skillsets for creative problem solving

By | Dr Pavan Soni | Innovation Evangelist

Design Thinking has come of age from its humble roots in industrial and product design to being the go-to approach for solving wicked problems elegantly. The sheer number of online courses offered by corporate and universities is reflective of the popularity of this creative problem solving approach, and to add to this, there are some excellent books on design and design thinking offering useful tips. Why another book then?

Based on my research on the topic and 15 years of practice on executive coaching and conducting workshops on creative problem solving and innovation culture, I reckon that the current discourse on design thinking suffers from three key shortcomings. Firstly, design thinking is largely associated with product design, that too in the space of hi-tech and mostly in the realm of fast paced startups. Though some of the early and most popular use cases do come from the tech milieu, the method is equally amicable to solve almost any problem and in any context, and that’s one of the core thrust areas of this book.

Secondly, the extant literature and conversations are heavily influenced by the western narrative and case studies, and there’s very little to talk about or celebrate from an Indian context. It almost appears that Indians don’t innovate, or worst still, aren’t systematic problem solvers. Which isn’t the case, except that we need to identify nuggets of excellence, share and learn from those to scale such practices. The book, with its over 30 cases, mostly from Indian companies, including Titan, Mahindra, Big Bazaar, Bigbasket, IndiGo, Wipro, Asian Paints, ITC, Infosys, Tata Motors, Tata Group, and Reliance, amongst others, offers confidence to a reader that design thinking is more accessible than previously thought.     

Thirdly, design thinking is largely a set of principles woven around a novel process that helps you solve problems or create new solutions in a human-centric manner. There is very little to offer in terms of what tools to be used, which skills to be developed, and why an appropriate mindset is required to be an effective problem solver. The trinity of toolsets, skillsets, and mindsets makes for a holistic learning, and this book, at each stage of the design thinking journey, offers a host of enablers that would help almost anyone to systematize problem solving.  

The book, Design Your Thinking, stems from over 300 corporate workshops that I have conducted over the years on a wide range of problem solving tools and methods, and engagement with leaders on what happens after the workshop is over, in terms of execution of ideas. It also builds on my research and reading on creativity, social psychology, innovation, technology, and organizational behavior, and the attempt is to keep the work grounded in research and yet practically relevant. The five stage model discussed in the book — Inspire, Empathize and Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test, and Scale —  offers a comprehensive view of why design thinking all the way to how to scale those solutions and yield sustainable impact.

With over 30 case studies, 20 pages of research citations, and 15 years of practical experience, the book would be a good read for starters and experts alike, in most domains. If you are keen to hone problem solving skills, demystify design thinking, foster a culture of innovation in your team or the organization, the book won’t disappoint you.

Leaving you with some comments about the book from a few of the industry leaders.

‘Dr Soni has delivered a lucid treatise on the “how to” of design thinking. A must-read book’—Vijay Govindarajan,

‘An amazing read from Dr Pavan Soni. Rich in literature on design thinking and insights from Indian examples, the book guides the evolution of the thinking process systematically and systemically’—Dr K. Radhakrishnan, former Chairman, ISRO

‘Pavan Soni’s thought-provoking book reminds us of the critical importance of design thinking to deliver on strategy. A great read for both start-up entrepreneurs and corporate leadership teams’—Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson, Biocon

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