You can have High Quality only if you apply Design Thinking before checking the Quality.

Let’s see why Design Thinking is much more important than any other criteria in the development of new products. And this is applicable in any kind of product you create. Considering my experience in engineering, I will take in this case: the engineering approach. I am working in automotive industry for some years and now after seeing how businesses in this area run, I can conclude, that the “Change by Design” is the main requirement mandatory to create successful businesses. Whatever you design the first thing you need in order to start is “DESIGN THINKING”.  To say it differently –in automotive industry – you need skilled mechanical design engineers who are able to develop your product from the concept idea to serial production. This is not the only type of engineers you need, of course you need also electronics engineers, software engineers, material science engineers, manufacturing engineer and eventually ”quality engineers”. I say the word “eventually” for quality engineers on purpose. Because this category of engineers are not necessary .If the other category of engineers as I just mentioned , do their job correct, quality engineers are something additional and not necessary. If those engineers (mechanical, electronics, software, material science and manufacturing) have a strong design thinking at the end you don’t need any quality engineer at all. What you need is maybe just a sort of technician in quality who supervise the outcome from the production line and gives feedback to designers and the other engineers involved. I have come to this conclusion acting myself as quality engineer after having a extensive experience as design engineer. There is a huge difference, in quality you cannot innovate anything if you don’t have previous experience in other engineering fields. As quality engineer you just follow some rules and apply some tools to track the problem you have usually on production line. Those tools in Quality such as: Ishikawa Diagram, 8D-Reports, a lot of ISO standards including ISO 9001/ISO TS 16949, 7STEP, VDA Norms, and a lot of other internal quality norms -all are there just to be followed. Therefore a regular quality engineer just follow those norms but unfortunately many quality guys are just there to get their monthly salaries, the are useless because they are unskilled. Not to say anything in addition about the Managers in Quality, those in big majority are even more useless. Exceptions in such cases are very rare. One of them is me :-):-)/… just kidding … but honestly I really see the quality assurance like that and I will use my experience as designer to improve the quality too, but unfortunately not all Quality Engineers have the same thinking.

Of course Product Quality is very important too but without design thinking it won’t work.

Engineering in Quality??? There is something that indeed companies must pay attention. Of course you need this, because is the last gate from your product development stage to the customer yard. If quality is not good, for sure you will not sell anything. But if the design is bad since the beginning of your product development you can not have quality at the end neither.

Therefore every manager in industry must understand that „Design Thinking“ is vital. If you have unskilled design engineers, you can have the best quality engineers in the world, you will never succeed. A quality engineer doesn’t improve anything, he just reports the failure but in many cares has no idea about the corrective measure and why is that better. But on the other side the information provided by the quality engineer can be helpful for a designer to understand better the consequences of a bad design. Therefore, a quality engineer may be creative only if he work closely with the designer and find solution together. „Design Thinking“ approach should be the ability that all engineers in a company must have, including the quality guys.

In contrast to the champions of scientific management at the beginning of the last century, design thinkers know that there is no “one best way” to move through the process. There are useful starting points and helpful landmarks along the way, but the continuum of innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. We can think of them as :

  • inspiration = the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions
  • ideation = the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas
  • implementation = the path that leads from the project room to the market

Projects may loop back through these spaces more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions.  The reason for the iterative, nonlinear nature of the journey is not that design thinkers are disorganized or undisciplined but that design thinking is fundamentally an exploratory process; done right, it will invariably make unexpected discoveries along the way, and it would be foolish not to find out where they lead. Often these discoveries can be integrated into the ongoing process without disruption. At other times the discovery will motivate the team to revisit some of its most basic assumptions.

Having Design Thinking skills

While testing a prototype, for instance, consumers may provide us with insights that point to a more interesting, more promising and potentially more profitable market opening up in front of us. Insights of this sort should inspire us to refine or rethink our assumptions rather than press onward in adherence to an original plan. To borrow the language of the computer industry, this approach should be seen not as a system reset but as a meaningful upgrade. The risk of such an iterative approach is that it appears to extend the time it takes to get an idea to market, but this is often a shortsighted perception. To the contrary, a team that understands what is happening will not feel bound to take the next logical step along an ultimately unproductive path.

Good Design VS. Bad Design

I have seen many projects killed by management because it became clear that the ideas were not good enough. When a project is terminated after months or even years, it can be devastating in terms of both money and morale. A nimble team of design thinkers will have been prototyping from day one and self-correcting along the way. That’s why I say: “Fail early to succeed sooner.”

Insofar as it is open-ended, open-minded, and iterative, a process fed by design thinking will feel chaotic to those experiencing it for the first time. But over the life of a project, it invariably comes to make sense and achieves results that differ markedly from the linear, milestone-based processes that define traditional business practices. In any case, predictability leads to boredom and boredom leads to the loss of talented people. It also leads to results that rivals find easy to copy. It is better to take an experimental approach:

  • share processes
  • encourage the collective ownership of ideas
  • enable teams to learn from one another

A second way to think about the overlapping spaces of innovation is in terms of boundaries. To an artist in pursuit of beauty or a scientist in search of truth, the bounds of a project may appear as unwelcome constraints. But the mark of a designer  is a willing embrace of constraints. Without constraints design cannot happen, and the best design – a precision medical device or emergency shelter for disaster victims – is often carried out within quite severe constraints.

The willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of competing constraints is the foundation of design thinking. The first stage of the design process is often about discovering which constraints are important and establishing a framework for evaluating them. Constraints can best be visualized in terms of three overlapping criteria for successful ideas:

  • feasibility = what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future feasibility
  • viability = what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model
  • desirability = what makes sense to people and for people

A competent designer will resolve each of these three constraints, but a design thinker will bring them into a harmonious balance.

Constraints in Design Thinking

The popular Nintendo Wii is a good example of what “happens when someone gets it right”. For many years a veritable arms race of more sophisticated graphics and more expensive consoles has been driving the gaming industry. Nintendo realized that it would be possible to break out of this vicious circle-and create a more immersive experience-by using the new technology of gestural control. This meant less focus on the resolution of the screen graphics, which in turn led to a less expensive console and better margins on the product. The Wii Console strikes a perfect balance of desirability, feasibility, and viability. It has created a more engaging user experience and generated huge profits for Nintendo. This pursuit of peaceful coexistence does not imply that all constraints are created equal; a given project may be driven disproportionately by technology, budget, or a volatile mix of human factors.

Different types of organizations may push one or another of them to the fore. Nor is it a simple linear process. Design teams will cycle back through all three considerations throughout the life of a project, but the emphasis on fundamental human needs-as distinct from fleeting or artificially manipulated desires – is what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo. Though this may sound self-evident, the reality is that most companies tend to approach new ideas quite differently. Quite reasonably, they are likely to start with the constraint of what will fit within the framework of the existing business model. Because business systems are designed for efficiency, new ideas will tend to be incremental, predictable, and all too easy for the competition to emulate. This explains the oppressive uniformity of so many products on the market today; have you walked through the housewares section of any department store lately, shopped for a printer, or almost gotten into the wrong car in a parking lot? Well that’s exactly what I am talking about 🙂

A second approach is the one commonly taken by engineering driven companies looking for a technological breakthrough. In this scenario teams of researchers will discover a new way of doing something and only afterward will they think about how the technology might fit into an existing business system and create value. Therefore reliance on technology is hugely risky. Relatively few technical innovations bring an immediate economic benefit that will justify the investments of time and resources they require. This may explain the steady decline of the large corporate R&D labs such as Xerox PARC and Bell Labs that were such powerful incubators in the 1960s and ’70s.

This is how the Design Thinking works.

Today, corporations instead attempt to narrow their innovation efforts to ideas that have more near-term business potential. They may be making a big mistake. By focusing their attention on near-term viability, they may be trading innovation for increment. Finally, an organization may be driven by its estimation of basic human needs and desires. At its worst this may mean dreaming up alluring but essentially meaningless products destined for the local landfill-persuading people, in the blunt words of the design  “to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress neighbors who don’t care.” Even when the goals are laudable, however- moving travelers safely through a security checkpoint or delivering clean water to rural communities in impoverished countries – the primary focus on one element of the triad of constraints, rather than the appropriate balance among all three, may undermine the sustainability of the overall program.

Designers, then, have learned to excel at resolving one or another or even all three of these constraints. Design thinkers, by contrast, are learning to navigate between and among them in creative ways. They do so because they have shifted their thinking from problem to project. The project is the vehicle that carries an idea from concept to reality. This is what every design engineers needs and this is in fact all the engineers need: to learn and apply the Design Thinking.

Implement this picture in your business and you’ll see the results.

Don’t ever expect that such thinking to come at first from a quality engineer. As I said quality engineers are useless if the designer is stupid. In fact the reason why most of the quality engineers exist today is because the company doesn’t have good designers and like that they hire more quality engineers which is even worst. A quality engineer without a basic design-of-stuff knowledge, and without  a manufacturing knowledge is absolutely useless. Not to say the same thing about Quality Managers. 

I only show here one very simple example. The ketchup tube. This is how good Design Thinking works:-). We have User Interface which is how the initial idea was created versus User Experience which is how the user really want to use your product.

Design Thinking makes the difference.
User Experience is the most to important status to be considered for any new product.

So the best suggestion I can have for companies in automotive industry  – but not only – is to STOP CREATING QUALITY MANAGER ROLES or QUALITY ENGINEERING JOBS,  HIRE DESIGN THINKERS (such as: UX designers, mechanical designers, electronics engineers, software and manufacturing engineers and of course materials science engineers) and even quality engineers but with design thinking ability. Otherwise you  just burn your money for the sake of your stupidity.

Improve the Design Thinking in your company and you will be boost the creativity, you diversify the range of your products, make a good design-to-cost and a design-to-quality products and for sure you will win customers. It is useless to mention, but it will be very obvious that you will have a huge profit afterwards. Just think about for a minute to what I wrote in this post and try to apply this, you’ll see the change J

This is what Apple, Google, Samsung, Daimler and Toyota (just to name few of such big companies) do.

Published by florijn2019

I am a material science engineer working in Automotive Industry for some years and I have been doing projects in mechanical design using different CAD softwares such as CATIA V5, and NX. I have knowledge in plastics design, injection molding and automotive glass technology but I have also interests in new technologies such as artificial intelligence and aerospace industry. In my free time I like to travel the world, to learn about new cultures and make friends in different countries. Currently I can speak 5 languages : Romanian, English, German, French and Dutch. I was born in Romania but I am living in Belgium since Jan.2011.

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