By Rachell Newburn

I had the absolute pleasure to attend the AIGA Leadership Retreat in Dallas this past month, representing the Santa Barbara AIGA chapter. For those who aren’t familiar with AIGA, it’s a professional organization for design with over 25,000 members across the U.S. As a designer by trade and a business Consultant for Collaboration, I eagerly nodded my head when the speakers reiterated that the way to succeed in business is to think like a designer. I do this every day with our team here at Collaboration and for my valued clients.

The gist of this thought is that design thinking = creative problem solving, meaning business leaders can use this strategy to reposition their business and ultimately improve their bottom line. After returning from the AIGA Retreat, I was inspired to share my ideas so you can learn how to incorporate and leverage design thinking into your business.

Design Thinking IS Creative Problem Solving
As a designer, I learned how to think creatively to solve tricky design issues. Say I’m working on a marketing campaign for a client. After a series of meetings to determine the feeling and emotion they want the campaign to convey, I go back to work on it. But, I really could approach it in about 20 different ways. What I need to do is figure out which one is the best way to express the message.

Think about this example in your business’ life. Say you want to become a $20 or $100 million company in five years. How will you get there? The answer is not linear; there are a variety of ways to reach that goal. By thinking creatively and outside of the box, you can find a new and better way to increase your profit. You may even use creative problem solving on a regular basis and not even know it! When looking at your numbers, you’re thinking of how to forecast and how your financials will impact your operations. As you know, there are many different paths to achieve this goal.

How Design Thinking Can Advance Business and Leadership
Our whole society is influenced by design and design thinking is taking over the global community. The belief that design can change the world translates well to advancing business and leadership. While it may feel awkward at first to think like a designer, this change in approach gives business owners and their teams the ability to draw inspiration from just about anywhere. Take the step to lead by example and begin bridging design and business to foster a cohesive culture; then, encourage that same behavior change within your own organization.

Khoi Vinh, AIGA presenter and principal designer of Adobe and author of How They Got There, noted that there’s no getting around being a business person, but at some point, a leap of faith must be taken. Another presenter, Karin Hibma Cronan, co-founder and principal of CRONAN, believes it’s essential for designers and business leaders alike to create a common vision to work toward and lead from.

As I reflect on the AIGA Retreat weekend, I realized that Collaboration is already following through with the great advice given by design industry leaders. As we encourage our clients to think outside of the box and lead with purpose, we are shaping businesses across the nation to think like a creative problem solver. By challenging yourself to think differently, you can truly change your business — and the world — for the better.

Bottom Line

Thinking like a designer will open many doors for your business. Step outside of the way things are always done to creatively contemplate how your vision can be put into motion. Treat each problem as if there are no wrong answers and you’ll be surprised to find new avenues for personal, professional and financial growth.

Let’s Talk

Something’s not right with your business. You know it, your team feels it and maybe it’s trickling down to your clients too. Whatever issues you’re facing, let our friendly, smart, intuitive team give you the tools you need to elevate your business. Give us a call, send an email, or meet us out for coffee or a cocktail. Let’s collaborate to create a successful business!

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