Muthuraj Thangavel, a Product Manager at SAP Labs and a senior coach and mentor for the topics of Design Thinking, Customer Engagement & Business Model Innovation. Passionate about new product development and business innovation, he holds a USPTO patent and is a recognized speaker who has delivered impactful sessions/talks in various SAP conferences, NASSCOM and other forums. We managed to catch him despite his busy schedule for an informal chat on his career, interests and passion for Design Thinking (DT).
Time is the trickiest thing in this equation. All of these could demand my presence and contribution at the same time and hence a good amount of planning is required. I would not say that I have mastered time management, but am trying my best here to manage with many opportunities/new challenges that keep coming my way versus the available time. Prioritization is the key. Also, I should admit that without my wife Nandhu's support none of this would be possible at all.
I would not even use the word "Design Thinking" to them. I would just let them experience how they can empathetically and creatively solve problems. Actually, I had even taken a DT workshop for kids. Took them through a much simplified version which enables them to be empathetic, think and see things differently and be problem-solvers right from a young age. Working with kids is always fun and a lot of learning for me as well. Especially, they are very good with creativity. In one of the workshops, one kid, to solve his partner’s problem of carrying a heavy bag, proposed that he would put an "anti-gravity" material in the school bag. When the bag is carried on the shoulders, it wouldn't pull down but would just be floating and following 🙂
My design thinking workshops are always focused towards helping participants develop the right mindset for creative problem solving and picking up new skills. Generally, for corporate participants, I have to spend more time on effective end-user interaction, and for startup participants, more time on helping them validate their assumptions [many a times, they had their whole solution based on a bunch of assumptions].
I would say that Design Thinking is very important for product managers and it helps in many places. For example, even in a traditional product management, there is a lot of customer interactions. But, Design Thinking can help in deriving patterns and deeper insights from those interactions, go to the root cause of why they asked for something, find the right problem, and hence the right solution to the problem.