How to apply design-led thinking

Apply design thinking

With the weather tipping to well over 40 degrees in sunny Dubai this morning… and before everyone vacates to cooler possibilities, Marketing Society members gathered for an inspirational session with Calvin Hart from IBM who recently relocated to Dubai from the startup Shoreditch Hoxton hub world in London to D3 design district in Dubai.

He walked us through how design thinking is being applied to help businesses revolutionize their understanding of their own marketplace and positioning and how better to connect with consumers through a solid framework of thinking. 

Reminiscent thoughts of how parker pens moved from the pen market into the gifting market came to my mind as well as all the industries that are at break speed trying to revolutionize into a ‘XaaS’ (something as a service) business model: transport as a service, entertainment as a service, and retail as a service to thrive.

While the framework is not anything new if you’ve spent a bit of time in Silicon Valley, what was new, was how he and his team are actually executing change management in a region where much of the business culture remains tied to status quo. Questions revolved around the human element which still holds back much of the inspiration into execution at a #BeBrave pace.

Let’s face it, we are still analogue, made of carbon and pretty much irrational – counter to everything digital and business transformation is delivering.

Case studies included:

Entertainment simplified

Yas Island – an entire island dedicated to entertainment and how to they simplified their offering to Drive, Dive, Thrill and Chill.

Whether you want amusement parks, Ferrari world, water activities or to hang out at the beach, it can all be done in the same day – simple message, against simple need states.

Message banking

Ned bank in South Africa – instead of creating an app, they created a hack into WhatsApp with a specialized bank keyboard option and with the keyboard you can send money to others via WhatsApp transactions. 

The thinking?

Be where the people are, if they are in WhatsApp, build for this space.

Airports from transit to marketplace experiences 

Abu Dhabi airport - reimagined its experience as a marketplace rather than a transport hub. 

The agility being fueled by pop up shops to test what consumers really want to buy and the flexibility to move with trend and capture on the ground value as consumers move between destinations and flights to their final end point.

Great stories, great thinking, and beyond #braveleaders, they were great inspiration on how to re-imagine solving business problems with a tried and tested framework and more importantly execute and #deliveringbrave in growing region with pockets of innovation.  

If big institutions and governments like #smartDubai and #vision2030 in Saudi can do it, there are many more future possibilities to look forward to.  


By Laura Chaibi, head of market intelligence and digital syndicate measurement, MBC