How ‘business design thinking’ can drive greater ROI

Tuesday, March 29, 2016
© 2015 Marc Sniukas — Taken while brainstorming a title for what became The Art of Opportunity, Portland, OR

Learn how applying business design thinking is actually a better means of driving greater ROI, enjoying more engaged employees, and creating a differentiated product and service offerings.

Much has been written lately about design thinking. For some, its description sounds like the “soft side” of business, meant for experiential learning, team-building, and HR activities.

But a growing body of evidence demonstrates that the application of design thinking to business provides greater ROI, increases employee and customer satisfaction, and creates differentiated products and services.

At the core of this new, innovative approach is what we call “business design thinking,” a method-based approach for creating business solutions and solving business problems. It puts people in the center of the problem, uses a wizened, creative, holistic, visually focused approach aimed at gaining understanding and solutions.

Here are five key principles of business design thinking to help you succeed:

1. Keep a human-centered focus

  • Extends focus beyond objects to create value for customers and all stakeholders. By observing, engaging, and immersing yourself in the behavior, needs, and mindset of your customer you gain critical understanding and insight.
  • Applies an empathetic approach. By getting inside your customer’s head, you can interpret the nuanced, intangible aspects of the experience and how someone is feeling.

2. Think visually and tell stories

  • Facilitates a clear and cohesive means of sharing and developing ideas. Stories inspire, motivate, and move people to take action.
  • Provides ideas with a new dimension. The use of storytelling is a primary way to engage with a customer’s emotional intelligence.
  • Accelerates decision-making by cultivating a new, creative understanding of an idea.

3. Work and co-create collaboratively

  • Encourages thoughtful solutions to shared problems. This is best achieved by embracing diverse perspectives.
  • Collaboration and co-creation among multi-disciplinary groups build alignment and support.

4. Evolve through active iteration

  • Enables gathering of plans faster, and creates a reflective and productive learning process.
  • Allows for smoother, and more successful adaptation of ideas as they evolve.

5. Maintain a holistic perspective

  • Approaches the organization as a dynamic, open system of interrelated processes to discover connections and interdependencies between stakeholders, processes, and deliverables.
  • Helps improve efficiency and promotes communication. By thinking holistically, you can better understand how the people within your “system” work with each other.

By applying these five principles, organizations can enjoy more engaged stakeholders who feel valued, open, and efficient communication, and a better means to drive greater return on investment. You will find that business design thinking opens a path to innovative strategy development.

Take the principles on a test drive. At the very least, you may become more conversant at business conferences, sound informed in your next staff meeting, and perhaps even lead your firm to a greater vision and success.

Parker Lee is a business design strategist and president of Compass52, directing large-scale interdisciplinary projects for global corporate clients. Previously, he was president and EVP of business development at XPLANE. In May 2016, Lee will be releasing his new book, “The Art of Opportunity: How to Build Growth and Ventures Through Strategic Innovation & Visual Thinking,” available for pre-order at

Originally published at on March 29, 2016.

Parker Lee

Parker Lee is the managing partner of Territory, a design consultancy, who has developed and led teams in transformation, design thinking, and business development for decades. Co-author of The Art of Opportunity, he has created and facilitated dozens of design and visual thinking engagements.

Share this post:

Explore more

Stay in the loop.