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The Superpower of Design Thinking

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While courses in design thinking are very popular with students and lifelong learners, are companies recognizing this as its own skill set?” —General Question, 2018.

Design Thinking

In 2018, as “design thinking” was emerging as a mainstream business concept and valuable problem-solving tool, three MBS researchers—seeking to answer the above question—decided to examine the number of job postings that requested “design thinking” as a skill.

Over a 12-month period ending on June 30, 2018, they found a total of 16,000 postings made nationwide—a 200 percent increase from 2016. A cornerstone of MBS education and a core tenant of User Experience Design, “design thinking,” in 2022, is now widely recognized as an integral part of business operations and central to the success of cross-functional team performance.  

Then and Now: An Increase in Postings

From January 2021 to January 2022, there were 55,118 positions that advertised “design thinking” as a requested skill—a 350 percent increase from 2018—with a projected growth rate of +67.9 percent over the next two years. 

WHERE THE JOBS ARE: Industries & Occupations

In 2018, more than half of job postings requesting “design thinking” as a skill fell into four main industries: Consulting services, depository credit institutions (finance), software publishers, and insurance carriers—with companies including Accenture, IBM, Capital One, SAP, Microsoft, Humana, and Salesforce leading the way among top employers requesting the skill.

In 2022, the top four sectors accounted for 79 percent of all job postings that requested “design thinking," with three of four sectors remaining the same as in 2018, and with top employers staying largely the same, as well.

chart showing the top four industries in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Professional/ Consulting Services, Finance and Insurance, Manufacturing, and Information -

What Roles are Most in Demand?

Within the top four industries, below are the top ten job titles for the most in-demand roles.

  1. UI/UX Designer / Developer
  2. Product Manager
  3. Software Developer / Engineer
  4. Industrial Designer
  5. IT Project Manager
  6. Business /Management Analyst
  7. Marketing Manager
  8. Network Engineer /Architect
  9. Systems Analyst
  10. General Manager

 

SKILLS MOST OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH DESIGN THINKING: Co-Occurring Skills

In 2018, one out of five job postings that requested design thinking also requested prototyping and project management as desired skills; other top skills included product management, process design, and user research.

In 2022, the top two co-occurring skills were project management and product management—each appearing in one out of five postings—followed by prototyping, product development, and user research. 

chart of the same top five skills from 2018 and 2022 - project management, product management, prototyping, product development, and user research

 

SKILLS MOST OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH DESIGN THINKING – Software Skills and Soft Skills

Agile development, visual design, user interface (UI) design, and software development are among the most requested technical skills to appear in “design-thinking” job postings. However, in today’s world, it’s necessary to have interpersonal skills and technical skills in order to advance your career. 

Note: In her recent UX Tools & Portfolio Tips webinar, alumna Nicole Flores MBS’21 referenced Adobe Suite as a general, all-around, in-a-pinch software with which students should become familiar. Adobe Suite was also among the most-requested software skills.

MOST REQUESTED SOFT SKILLS

  1. Teamwork / Collaboration
  2. Communication Skills
  3. Research
  4. Creativity
  5. Problem-Solving
  6. Planning
  7. Presentation Skills
  8. Writing
  9. Detail-Oriented
  10. Organizational Skills

 

SKILLS MOST OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH DESIGN THINKING – Related Skills and Abilities

According to labor data gathered via analytics software from Burning Glass Technologies, the skills and abilities indicated below are considered more or less (literally) related to design thinking—meaning that someone possessing design thinking as a skill may also more easily acquire the below skills or transition into some of the professional roles listed below.

skills that are more or less related to design thinking including skills like user research, visual design, interaction design, and business process modeling, as well as

JOB DESCRIPTIONS

So, what do job descriptions that seek candidates with design thinking skills look like? Below is text from recent job postings, as well as the specific job title.  

Product Designer - “Drive product solutions that are rooted in human-centered design and research insight, and advocate for design thinking, and facilitate effective, inclusive design processes.”

Design Operations Manager – “Practice design methods like UX research, content design, and design thinking to understand the user journeys we’re solving for and create systems and processes that enable the UX team.”

Design Manager, UX - “Evangelize the value of user experience and design thinking throughout the organization.”

Interaction Designer - “T Ability to guide others in design thinking methods, including sprints and workshop facilitation that may often include cross-functional stakeholders and executive leadership.

Design Thinking Strategist - “Contribute to the design thinking community of practice as a means to inspire an innovative mindset across the organization; create and conduct design thinking trainings and capacity building sessions, as needed.”

CONCLUSION:

While awareness and implementation of design thinking have both increased dramatically since 2018, the mechanics and impact of design thinking have remained the same.

Then as now, “design thinking creates a collaborative, interconnected work environment where decisions are made quickly through research, prototyping, and testing. This mindset produces customer-driven solutions.”

Most importantly, design thinking rewards being inquisitive, questioning established processes and finding new ways to deliver a product or service. It empowers employees to be curious, observe, test, and engage their end-user. 

“We use design thinking in all aspects of the MBS program,” says MBS executive director Deborah Silver. “This includes our approach to executive coaching and academic advising, in which we use “designing your life (DYL)” philosophy—which is design thinking applied to how to plan one’s career and academic choices.” 

Innovation expert Mike Grandinetti, an award-winning strategist and creator of MBS’s signature Design Innovation course, notes, “as move to an increasingly digital world, the ability for an organization to design and deliver a world class user experience is what separates companies that succeed from companies that don’t. Even the least tech-oriented companies that have embraced design thinking have prospered at the expense of their competitors.”  

Indeed, "Just as the industrial revolution standardized processes to ensure consistency and reduce costs," concluded the 2018 researchers, "design thinking has—and will continue—to provide personalization and customization that all businesses now need to succeed in our digital age." 

Four years later, we couldn't agree more.

Rutgers MBS Courses to Increase Your Knowledge of the Skills Associated with Design Thinking: 

Introduction to User Experience Design – 16:137:531 (includes UX, user research, UX wireframes)

Contextual Inquiry – 16:137:532

Project Management for the Scientific and Technical Practitioner – 16:137:601

Information Architecture – 16:137:602

Design Innovation: Make and Market Anything – 16:137:529 This is a course that teaches and uses design thinking to make a product.

Enterprise Software Architecture – 16:137:541 This course teaches Agile

Visual Design for User Experience – 16:137:533 This course teaches graphics design fundamentals for UXD

MBS Externship Exchange– 16:137:653 / 654 / 655

Science & Technology Management Capstone – 16:137:600

Methodology: 

This article analyzes jobs advertised between February 1, 2021, and January 31, 2022, using a tool called Labor Insight from Burning Glass Technologies. By mining the detailed information stored in job postings, we can determine what skills employers are looking for when they seek to fill certain positions. The data presented was based on jobs and job descriptions having the keyword(s) “design thinking.”

 

Author(s): 
Jen Reiseman-Briscoe
Published On: 
02/23/2022
Tags: 
Design thinking
job skills
jobs in demand
problem-solving
human-centered