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Importance of Design Thinking in Leadership
Importance of Design Thinking in Leadership

Importance of Design Thinking in Leadership

We can’t deny with the importance of design thinking in leadership because every day comes with its distinct challenges, especially in the aspect of sales and customer relationship management in marketing. These challenges hinder many companies from meeting the changing needs of their customers.

This necessitates the need to identify those critical problems, articulate them, as well as proffer solutions to them – hence, the need for design thinking. Since its application in business, it has helped overcome a lot of challenges and resulted in improved customer satisfaction. The reason is not farfetched from its focus on creativity and collaboration.

Just like marketing, leadership is also characterized by serious challenges which may be as a result of constant changes, huge expectations and an unpredictable future. Over the years, the application of design thinking has transcended business and marketing. A lot of top organizations such as Google, Pepsi, and Apple now apply it in leadership matters, irrespective of the nature of the organization. It is a human- centered approach of solving problems through extensive collaboration, using processes like empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.

Benefits of Design Thinking in Leadership

When applied in leadership, design thinking helps to achieve the following: the importance of design thinking in leadership becomes evident in its ability to foster creativity, empathy, and innovation, enabling leaders to solve complex problems and create unique solutions that meet the needs of their customers and stakeholders.

1. It Helps to Harness the Collective Brainpower of the Team

When a problem arises in an organization, it poses a serious challenge for the leader ineffective performance. They find it difficult to synchronize the different departments and their different goals. Since design thinking is about collaboration, it will assist the leader in mining the collective brainpower of the team to extract the optimal solutions.

In other words, design thinking helps leaders to harmonies the perspectives of their team members on the organizational problem. They can see problems through others’ eyes via observation and research. For an optimal result, leaders can delegate tasks such that the strengths of team members and their innate creativity are utilized effectively.

Consequently, team members feel among and, therefore, put in their best and work as a team to come up with various prototypes for testing as well as present innovative ideas and opportunities that will proffer solutions to the problems at hand. This will also contribute positively to the employee performance management system.


2. It Helps To Make A Better Leader

A design mindset is action-oriented and solution-focused. When properly adopted, it helps a leader to become effective, innovative, and transformative. For instance, Apple’s Steve Jobs is one of the most renowned design thinking business leaders. He successfully transformed the company from personal computers to include iPhone and iPad. Thus, design thinking equips the leader with:


While discussing importance of design thinking in leadership, it’s worth mentioning that leadership starts with empathy. When a leader understands experiences, they will understand the needs of people around them better, including their team members or junior ones. The result of this is trust, motivation, and the leader’s greater ability to convince the team members of their (the leader’s) point of view. The subjects (team members) will follow such a leader irrespective of the uneasiness associated with the desired change and innovation.


Listening with Mutual Respect

Rather than being dictatorial, design thinkers are explorers. They ask questions and listen fearlessly to answers. They ensure dialogue and contributions from participants to find a lasting solution, without the interference of undue emotion. Thus, the application of design thinking helps to increase a leader’s ability to listen as well as develop inquiry, and resolve conflicts. They are able
to delimit questions in such a way that helps the team to better understand and identify root cause challenges and subsequently effect more powerful solutions.

Open-mindedness. Open-minded leaders continuously seek ways of improving things. They, therefore, welcome different ideas – through feedback or other means – with an open mind. Though feedback is necessary to make improvements, it isn’t easy to give and receive it. People tend to resort to defensive modes of behavior easily. As a design thinking leader, they easily critique ideas while also keeping a focus on the work and process, rather than personal opinions.


Coaching Skills

The concept of coaching is not about highlighting and critiquing a person’s weaknesses. Rather, it entails assisting them in increasing self-awareness while also adjusting their role to utilize their greatest strengths. As a leader, this promotes constructive input of design ideas from members, instead of defensive debate or unhealthy competition. This helps to create an environment characterized by learning and experimentation.


Leadership and decision-making are inseparable as a leader makes decisions all the time. A majority of these decisions help to shape the lives of individuals and organizations. When leaders adopt design thinking, it helps them improve their decision making by providing alternatives as well as a complete picturing of information. They easily overcome biases while also taking informed decisions amid alternatives.

Ability to Align Personal Purpose with the Organization’s Goal

Purpose-driven design is the propeller that helps to align the actions, character, and culture of an organization with its purpose. Design thinking leaders are able to articulate as well as align their vision and influence of choice with the goal of the organization for maximum impact and credibility. This, in turn, will also help improve managing staff performance as you will be working towards bringing out the best in your team.


In conclusion, it is of no doubt that design thinking in leadership has been present for long before it was codified. Hence  there is a great importance of design thinking in leadership now a days. Leaders learn from the past, monitor the present, and advance with the changing demands of the future. Thus, design thinking can help to change the leadership method for the better. This serves the leader, team members, and the organization. Irrespective of the problems encountered, design thinking equips leaders with the necessary abilities and skills to solve them. Thus, the concept continues to gain broader awareness and adoption.

Author picture

Dr. Roy is the Group Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer and holds responsibility for the overall strategic management & leadership in achieving the graduate schools’ vision & goals. His own belief for lifelong learning, as well as his drive for business management excellence, has brought him to achieving his passion for being part of the postgraduate education sector in Malaysia.

Dr Roy Prasad

(Hon Professor) FInstAM 

MHRM (MY), Grad Mgt (AU)

Group Managing Director &
Chief Executive Officer

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