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Aruba, August 12, 2016 - Sara Diamond is president and vice-chancellor of OCAD University. Karel Vredenburg is director of IBM Design’s worldwide client program and head of IBM Studios Canada.

Never have design thinking, design practice and creative skills been as important to Canada’s future as they are now. Today, competitive success is determined by the ability to understand human needs and desires and to deliver richly imagined ways of addressing them. Many organizations recognize the importance of innovation, but they don’t know how to achieve it. The answer is design.
Designers allow companies to stay ahead of their customers by anticipating and addressing human needs and behaviours in a complex and changing world. Technology needs to be intentionally designed for and with people. Design creates the experience of a product, system or service, the individual, social and cultural experience, and the value and the impact it has. Design is the bridge between raw invention and application.
The essence of design thinking involves empathizing deeply, listening to people and observing them to identify tough problems to address or new opportunities to explore. Design thinking marries systems analysis with outcomes-oriented problem solving. It’s relevant to the development and enhancement of services, products and business methods. It’s as applicable to large companies as it is to startups and non-profits.
Design thinking solicits solutions from the most diverse range of perspectives. This means that companies, organizations, and nations can generate multiple strategies, converge toward a solution, design and then implement. A diverse multidisciplinary team collaborates on a wide range of potential solutions, rapidly creating and iterating prototypes while continuously gathering and integrating feedback from intended users, ensuring that delivered systems incorporate feedback and are constantly improved.
Design thinking can be augmented by predictive data analytics and strategic foresight to engage in deep trend analysis, including identifying “weak signals” (activities on the periphery of society or a sector) that could affect business, and provide additional context for market and strategy development.