Innovation Heroes: Why design-led companies rule – and how to become one
5 steps to implement design thinking for innovation

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“Design thinking drives innovation.”
–Paul Stonick

Design-led companies, such as Apple, Starbucks, and Airbnb, outperform the S&P 500 index by 219 percent, according to research by the Design Management Institute.

In this episode of Innovation Heroes, a podcast by SHI, host Ed McNamara chatted with Paul Stonick. Paul is Vice President of SCADpro – the Savannah College of Art and Design’s in-house design, research, and innovation studio.

“The worst thing about design thinking is that the word ‘design’ is in the title. Design doesn’t even have to be a part of the output,” says Stonick. “It’s a human-centered approach to solving problems. You start by understanding people – their wants, needs, frustrations, and behaviors.”

The theory of design thinking was created in the 1960s but is finding new fame in traditional companies. Stonick says every company wants to be innovative, but they don’t know how to teach people how to be creative.

“That’s where design thinking comes in,” he says. “It marries both creativity and critical thinking skills. It requires teams to generate lots of ideas, break through the creative, and become comfortable with failure.”

The five steps of design thinking

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

Stonick stresses the importance of mapping design thinking back to investment strategies, stating that is the best way to break through corporate obstructionism.

“One of the most powerful things about design thinking is that it brings everyone to the table on a project earlier,” says Stonick. “It creates empowerment. Design teams become the guide and teacher to others. It allows us to go into other parts of an organization and teach others how to be creative again.”

Stonick explains how he brought design thinking strategies to Home Depot – a business he says will always be merchant-led, but can still benefit. Now at SCADpro, he’s led more than 700 partnerships to date, with over 70 products launched into the market. Nurturing the next generation of design thinkers, they’ve worked with some of the world’s most influential brands, including Google, Amazon, and Apple, as well as on social problems, like public housing and welfare.

“Design can solve anything,” says Stonick. “If you want to create real change within an organization, you have to change the way people think and not the way they behave.”

Listen to the full conversation to learn more about design thinking. You can also find episodes on SHI’s Resource Hub, Spotify, and other major podcast platforms, and on YouTube in an all-new video format.

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