Why Communication professionals need Design Thinking

Having studied and worked in communications for +10 years, I’ve several times experienced how communication has been positioned as an operational task aiming to attract, engage and retain various stakeholders of the organisation. In other words, before even understanding the context and the stakeholders, a newsletter, press release or a social media post about a given topic has been published. It has probably worked out, but with the ever-evolving rise of digital products and services, communication is more than a shiny article in the right media.

As a Communication Specialist with a UX specialization, I’ve been wondering if design thinking is the strategic framework that corporate communications has been missing all along? Unfortunately I couldn’t find much information, fortunately, that motivated me to start jotting down my thoughts and ideas.

My assumption is; Does Design Thinking have the potential to enhance communication effectiveness in organizations that wants to progress and lead with a human-centric approach in everything they do? 
I’ll explore further why in a second; first off, let’s define what Design Thinking and Corporate Communication is.

What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a problem-solving approach focusing on empathy, creativity, and iterative processes to develop innovative solutions. The framework was developed by David Kelley (founder of the design firm IDEO) and defined as: “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” (1). There are five non-linear stages of Design Thinking which means that the process is iterative; you try and test, go back, fix and try again.

The five stages – for a more detailed definition, IDF has a great article:

Finally, Design Thinking has mostly been applied when designing digital solutions, the framework has recently been used in non-digital settings, too. Here is an example from an education institution:Design Thinking in Education – Gettingsmarter.com

What is Corporate Communication?
Communication is ultimately about conveying a message fx. values, mission, vision in the right manner (format), through the right channel (medium), at the right time to the right target group –  in its best this is done as a two-way process. It’s about connecting people to an organization, product or service.

Design thinking in Corporate Communication strategies
So what would happen if we adopted a Design Thinking and thus a human-centric approach to our communication efforts, but also our position as communicators? In the following, I give my best bet on this idea:

Audience-Centric Approach: Design Thinking emphasizes understanding the needs, behaviors and even perspectives of your users. In corporate communication, this means taking the time to empathize with your stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and partners. Ultimately this will help you better craft a message that resonates more effectively with your target group.

Creativity and Innovation: Design Thinking is a method to apply creative problem-solving. Applying this mindset to corporate communication means presenting information based on one or more personas. It could also be designing engaging visual content that captures attention and fosters a deeper understanding of your messages. In other words, adding a human-centric focus on your communication.

Iterative improvements: Design Thinking is an iterative process consisting of prototyping, testing, and refining solutions based on user feedback, competitive analysis and other insights. Applying an iterative approach to your corporate communication initiatives can help you improve your messaging based on real-world responses and adapt to changing circumstances and needs. Some may even argue that it also adds Agility to your communications, but that’s another blog post.

Visual and Storytelling Elements: Design Thinking focuses on the importance of visual communication and storytelling. Incorporate visuals, graphics, and videos into your corporate communications efforts to convey complex information more effectively – and you will realize that your communication efforts become a lot more human!

Collaboration: Design Thinking promotes cross-functional collaboration. In the context of corporate communication, this means involving professionals from various departments such as design, product, marketing/PR and perhaps even HR to bring diverse perspectives and expertise to the communication strategy.

This first article about Communication and UX is an expression of my thoughts and ideas. I’m aware that there are many practices and methods when it comes to communications – this article does not intend to decide what’s right or wrong, but should rather be seen as an explorative article.

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