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Design thinking — the skill every MBA student needs

Selling a car to a customer, the BMW company shows its knowledge of the wishes of their clients. Still, it’s not enough – they also want to know why customers have these wishes.

What role does a car play in a person’s life? Is it chosen according to lifestyle? Will these preferences change after several years?

That’s why BMW is studying the emotional basis for buying cars – they are interested in what people feel when purchasing one, and how they find exactly the one they need.

Design Thinking

For this task, BMW has employed design thinking, a strategy initially used for creative approaches in industries. Still, it has proved useful for many other purposes in business, and has helped to find and solve all kinds of problems.

What is new about design thinking is the fact that it uses empathy as its basis: you can begin understanding your customers if you try and think like them. Very often, businesses claim to know the desires of their customers, but mostly it’s not the case, as their information is obtained through market research techniques that are several decades too old. For the modern world, they don’t work anymore.

The Novelty in It

Design thinking turns the business processes of a company completely upside down: it doesn’t involve data analysis, sales figures, cost efficiency and other traditional factors. Its novelty lies in perceiving everything from a ‘human’ point of view.

In many modern businesses, design thinking is not even a thing, but it’s absolutely necessary for today’s MBA students, as it will become much more influential a few years down the road.

For instance, if this strategy is employed in a bank, employees are required to think and act like clients and try out every product and service available from the other side’s point of view. This technique is successfully employed by Deutsche Bank.

Some American companies, like PepsiCo, are also starting to employ this method. According to Indra Nooyi, the company’s CEO, even she – the boss of bosses – can try and imagine herself as a client, like a woman buying food for her children. All her employees are encouraged to follow her lead.

Such a method helps find problems and challenges that go unnoticed in the traditional process. They are a powerful basis for innovative solutions.

This experience is crucial for modern business students, and some business schools, such as Imperial College, have already started using design thinking in their core curriculum. In their opinion, no successful leader can stay successful without possessing emotional intelligence and the ability to feel what a customer feels.

Sometimes it becomes quite difficult to implement this new strategy, though – especially with male students who stereotypically tend to overlook the importance of empathy. For them, empathy is a synonym of weakness. Luckily, with proper education, many students understand their mistake.

While learning design thinking, you are bound to make mistakes, as it is a trial-and-failure process. Students have to talk to their target groups and find out about problems they experience with a certain type of product or service.

The importance of design thinking for modern business cannot be underrated: even management consulting firms start opening departments dedicated solely to design thinking. Sure, empathy may be underestimated for now, but its hidden powers are what will ultimately help your business survive competition.

Learn more about the skills that every MBA student needs on MBA25 event in Frankfurt!

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