In this episode we speak to Iain Bryant from Future by Design, discussing the importance of innovation, listening and understanding customers’ points of view, as well as the context of design thinking in Africa to the rest of the world, and our unique challenges.

Iain and Future by Design’s background is more in innovation than design thinking itself – Iain is a long-time business innovator. We discuss the history of innovation in the corporate world – how it used to be a long, expensive and admin-intensive process, and how we came to realise that we can innovate, in shorter, more targeted bursts using what we know today as the design thinking principles.

Iain explains how he brought design thinking into a corporate environment – how it could be understood and implemented by normal employees, but also how it was communicated in big corporate boardrooms so that senior and exco management with limited time could understand and implement it as well. We discuss how design thinking has been accepted or not in corporate SA, and how Iain has gone about educating corporates in the value of design thinking.

According to Iain, we must consider African lifestyles and environments when we create solutions for them: it’s not as simple as putting a device in their hands; we need to understand whether they have the means to make the device work – for example, can they afford the data? In Africa, it’s important to understand the individual in context in relation to the solution to understand whether it is feasible.

Almost 100% of the time, the principles of design thinking can assist in finding concepts and solutions for business. However there are instances where design thinking doesn’t work. We look at the reasons for this, as well as some local examples of how it has failed. To increase the success rate, corporates need to collaborate with the correct design thinking partner, instead of trying to implement it themselves, failing and giving up.

We look at the importance of empathy in a business vs a social setting and how it is applied differently depending on the solutions you are creating.

We challenge the thinking that a template based approach to design thinking is the solution. Iain is of the opinion – and we agree – that each intervention should be custom built based on the people taking part in creating a solution. This makes the intervention itself more human.

If you are unfamiliar with design thinking, listen to episode 1, where we discuss the methods and mindsets of design thinking and clear up some of the terminology.