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Momentum 22 Aug 2019

'Design thinking' or how to promote innovation in social enterprises

‘Design thinking’ is a methodology that develops creativity and promotes innovation to solve problems and meet people’s needs in a viable way. Its influence has reached social enterprises who use it to improve their results and increase their impact.

BBVA Momentum, BBVA’s social entrepreneurship support program, has included face-to-face workshops on ‘design thinking’ in the training it offers its participants, where professionals’ creativity is maximized with the aim of finding effective solutions to the challenges they face. The ‘design thinking’ methodology fits perfectly with the ethos of these social enterprises, as it is based on values such as empathy, creativity and equality.

Solutions “from below”

According to a report by Tim Brown, Chair of the global design company IDEO and Jocelyn Wyatt of the company’s Social Innovation department, published by Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), this method, “allows high impact solutions to sprout from below instead of being imposed from the top.” For these two experts, ‘design thinking’ is effective in social enterprises because it is a deeply human way of working: “No one wants to lead an organization based on feelings, intuition or inspiration, but being overly dependent on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. ‘Design thinking,’ with its integrated approach at the core of the design process, offers a third way.”

Working sessions based on this methodology are unpredictable and can lead to multiple ideas and solutions, but all are based on this scheme that organizes and directs the entire process, always leaving space for flexibility.

  1. Empathize: Before floating ideas, the methodology recommends an exercise to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, to help to generate solutions that are consistent with their problems.
  2. Define: Here, the information collected during the previous stage is filtered to identify the problems to be solved.
  3. Ideate: Participants will verbalize possible solutions, without sticking with the first idea that occurs to them. This promotes the expansion of thought, originality and even eccentricity. Many revolutionary projects have emerged from a notion that might seem absurd.
  4. Prototype: building a prototype makes the idea take shape and means that solutions can be more easily visualized.
  5. Test: the moment of truth, testing the prototypes with their intended users. This is the crucial phase of the process, which helps to identify any possible improvements, flaws to be resolved and any shortcomings. At this stage, the idea will evolve into the definitive solution.

All over the world, social entrepreneurs are putting in place creative solutions that respond to social and environmental challenges, often without sufficient resources or improvising as problems emerge. ‘Design thinking’ involves recreating this proactive attitude in a controlled environment, where it is possible to float ideas and experiment without fear. Failure, when it occurs at an early stage and with no consequences for users, becomes a source of learning. As Yasmina Zaidman, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships at Acumen said: “‘Design thinking’ is a real success factor for serving the base of the economic pyramid.”

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