Pepsico chief executive Indra Nooyi has given employees two-three years to adapt to a new design thinking culture, telling managers that if they don't change, she would be happy to attend their retirement parties.
Corporate leaders today are using design thinking to connect with customers at an emotional level, and in the process boost growth. Vishal Sikka of Infosys, Nisa Godrej of Godrej Industries, Kishore Biyani of Future Group and Harsh Mariwala of Marico are betting on the same subject.
With the spurt in growth of startups and entrepreneurship, chief executives of established companies are increasingly making it a part of their core strategy and seeing healthy results in innovation growth and profitability.
Last Thursday, Infosys launched 'Akido' (offering next generation services), where "do" refers to the service offering on design thinking. Nisa Godrej, executive director of Godrej Consumer Products, calls her organisational thinking 'Antevasin', one foot rooted in where we come from and the other foot constantly moving. "We have been around for over 118 years and our customers trust us. Yet, we are often considered our parents brand. Design thinking helps us be an Antevasin," she said.
The home grown FMCG company has used tools of empathy, rapid prototyping and visualisation to reimagine brands such as Cinthol and Good Knight, and create new ones that have led to a big jump in sales.
Experts said the pace of reinventing organisations and brands has quickened from about eight years to two-three. Design thinking is generally understood to involve a creative and systematic approach to problem-solving by placing the user at the centre of the experience.
"The pace of change in most industries is increasing rapidly and the level of competition is at a point where there are very few differences between products - especially from a functional standpoint," said Dheeraj Batra, managing director of DLabs at the Indian School of Business.
To elucidate, he said, "Is an Apple iPhone really that different from a Samsung Galaxy? They both have similar specifications and similar apps and even they cost more or less the same. Going back to Samsung vs Apple, the reason people buy Apple products is because they value the overall experience that has been designed for them; they don't buy the iPhone because it has a dual-core A5 processor."
Vishal Sikka had said recently that for Infosys to stay relevant, employees need to learn to think on their feet, be creative and come up with questions and solutions that are outside the abilities of an algorithm. The company is trying to improve the effectiveness of its sales team by incorporating elements of design thinking, among other measures, while making pitches to prospective clients in an effort to win more orders that exceed $100 million in annual revenue.
Over the last nine months, 'Do' has been offering a design services for clients to help them understand their path. The company has done 40 design service workshops. "In my experience, design thinking is a great approach to help us find problems, to help us see what is not there, to help us see something that is not visible not directly in front of us... we are all trained ...to solve problems specified to us ...but we are rarely trained to identify what is not there, and design thinking is a great mechanism, a great technique to systematically uncover some highly relevant problems that are feasible to solve," said Sikka.
"We at Infosys have made an unprecedented embrace of design thinking ...we at Infosys have possibly made the greatest embrace of design thinking ever ...we have more than 43,000 Infosions who have been trained on design thinking ... but 'do' is about bringing design thinking to our clients to help them find the problems that are of incredible importance to them," said Sikka. The CEO of a consumer goods company said on conditions of anonymity: "Utility and fashion is happening in every sector, and as consumers evolve, they are buying heavily into design. So earlier design was all about consumer durables, now it is about lipsticks, a toothpaste opener, or cap or a food packet."
In a recent HBR interview, Indra Nooyi said when she visits markets every week, the shelves just seem more and more cluttered. "So I thought we had to rethink our innovation process and design experiences for our consumers—from conception to what's on the shelf. Now our teams are pushing design through the entire system, from product creation, to packaging and labelling, to how a product looks on the shelf, to how consumers interact with it." Pepsico is also reported to be using design thinking for new products for women.
In 2012, Nooyi brought in Mauro Porcini as Pepsi's first-ever chief design officer. Now, Nooyi says, "design" has a voice in nearly every important decision that the company makes.
Infosys' Sikka handpicked Jason Wolf from SAP to help find creative and next-generation solutions to business problems faced by some of its big customers, such as Bank of America and General Electric.
Similarly, Godrej Consumer Products has a head of design, Darshan Gandhi, and has invested a lot in both design and R&D.
Mariwala, chairman of Marico, said design thinking is part of innovation. "So it cannot be just a separate design team put in place. The culture in an organisation has to be innovative to think outside the box and then design capabilities come in. I think the larger platform has to be innovation, of which design thinking will be a part" he said. Biyani, CEO of Future Group, said design thinking helps use both sides of the brain and finds solutions to every challenge. "It has helped us create so many new formats and build new brands" he said.
Design thinking is being applied successfully at two levels into the organisational strategies - as an approach to bringing a culture shift which eventually would impact everyday challenges, and as a radical or incremental change-driving innovation platform enabler. While doing so, it brings in an approach shift from the conventional management practices and thereby pushes for newer targets to be looked upon.
"Yes design thinking culture, and the work life emitting out of that cultural aura, is an extremely comprehensive platform for innovation," said Alessandro Giuliani, managing director, MISB Bocconi India. "In a fast changing India, with new segments of consumers and needs popping out every week, the adaptability and responsiveness of a design thinking approach allows practitioners to gain big advantage as compared with traditional management practices.
Article Written By: Rica Bhattacharyya & Kala Vijayaraghavan
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