Alina Balan: On the empathic journey from problem to solution

Alina Balan is the newest partner of Design Thinking Society, a passionate facilitator who guides teams in developing human-centered products, services, campaigns and events.
With more than 14 years in crafting complex and profitable communication interventions for successful brands such as Colgate-Palmolive, Electrolux, Ferrero, Lidl, Mercedes-Benz or Unilever, Alina brings a unique perspective in the design process. Discover it while exploring her latest interview on the topic.

  1. Your personal approach on design thinking. What is your definition of the concept?

This year we delivered around 50 one-day introductory workshops for Romanian entrepreneurs, sponsored by Google Romania. At the end of every session, I would ask participants to formulate their own definition of design thinking, now that they have gone through the process themselves. One of them put it better than I could ever have done it myself, so I’m going to go ahead and quote her: “Design Thinking is an empathic journey from problem to solution.” I highly resonate with this definition because it captures the human-centered approach of design thinking and it clearly states that the methodology is totally tailored around peoples’ needs.

  1. The most memorable example of design thinking:

Innova Schools, an IDEO project implemented in 2011, is definetly one of my favourite case studies as it clearly shows how design thinking done right can have a significant impact on the evolution of a society. The outcome of the intervention was a technology-enabled learning model that managed to bring affordable education to Peru. I would encourage whoever is reading this to go through this article for a better understanding of the project:

Design for Action, by Tim Brown & Roger L.Martin

  1. A message for companies that are still reluctant to design thinking.  Why those entities should use it and what is the expected outcome

Design Thinking is one of those activities that you need first to experience in order to feel its power and its flavour. You would never learn to ride a bike by reading a book, right? Same here. We’ve seen several successful projects that were initiated after someone from the company went through our open workshops, Design Thinking Starter, where we guide participants to solve collaboratively a real-life problem. It’s always interesting to us to see how participants label the outcome of the exercise differently. For example, for some it can be alignment between employees/teams, while for others it can be the creation of a new and innovative product with low costs/risks. But most often than not, it’s the AHA moment they have when they shift their attention to client needs. This translates into actionable business tactics that prove to generate a high return, as most studies on companies that use design thinking have shown. Give it a try, feel its power!

  1. The essence of your presentation at Design Thinking Forum, in one sentence.

Together with my colleague, Dragos Gavrilescu, I will host a one-day workshop that will take the participants through the five steps of the methodology, using a real-life business problem. As mentioned before, I do believe that this “intimate” contact with the methodology results in a deeper understanding of how it could help businesses.

We were happy to see that the workshop sold out quickly😊 Thus, if somebody wants to have this experience, do join our open Design Thinking Starters: