IQ is a number that depicts a person's intelligence, assessed through a series of tests.

EQ is the measure of your abilities in "such areas as self-awareness, empathy, and dealing sensitively with other people," according to Collins English Dictionary.

You need both IQ and EQ in today's organizations, but that still leaves an important ability out. What today's leaders and teams need for agile organizations is DQ--Design Quotient.

Design Quotient is your ability to think like a designer in a world of complex and constant change. Leaders and teams that can think like a designer are the foundation of agile, empathic, problem-solving cultures.

Last week, I asked you which of the four innovation personalities you were--Revolutionary, Evolutionary, Traditional, or Reactionary. A key differentiator between each one is your DQ.

Do you have DQ? Do you want to increase it? DQ is a skill and not a talent. It gets better with practice.

Here are 13 factors that contribute to your DQ you can practice in your organization.

1. Anyone can be a pessimist. Be an optimist instead. 

Thinking like a designer is about positivity. It is the difference between being weighed down by burdens versus lifted up by opportunities. Designers believe that no matter how hard the problem, we will come up with a better solution. This optimism is what propels us forward in the face of complex challenges and problems. Positivity is essential in the face of constant change, something today's organizations and leaders are facing.

Hidden benefit: being constructive.

2. Instead of a one-track mind, have an open mind. 

Thinking like a designer means asking "what if?" all the time. "What if" questions are a sign of being open to different ideas. Designers know from experience that often the best ideas come from the worst places--from failure and from mistakes. Be open to different, bad, and naive ideas as you innovate.

"You need to be naive enough to do things differently. No big publishing house would have allowed us to co-create a fully designed, four-color business book in landscape format--because it was contrary to the publishing industry logic. However, we thought of Business Model Generation as a product, not just a book--similar to Apple products." --Alex Osterwalder, Business Model Canvas

Hidden benefit: flexibility and agility.

3. Together, stronger.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many leaders and teams still choose to work in silos--often because of fear of the other, but also because of a false feeling of superiority. No one person is enough to tackle the wicked problems, sometimes also called "knotty problems," that leaders and organizations are facing. Neither is one specialty. Designers are generalists, learning on the job with each project. Not being a specialist teaches you to value collaborating with experts from different fields. Together, you're stronger. That's why you need to collaborate like a designer across silos and disciplines, and build on each other's ideas.

Hidden benefit: building ownership.

4. Be democratic, not autocratic. 

Over the years, design has become more democratic. One of the advantages of design thinking, using the design process as a strategic tool, is that it's inclusive. It puts challenges on the table and invites everyone to contribute. One of the biggest (but less talked about) benefits of this is how it builds collective trust and ownership; which underscores the importance of collaboration (see No. 3).

Hidden benefit: building trust.

5. To walk in my shoes, take your shoes off first. 

Empathy, the ability to understand other people by putting yourself in their shoes, is essential to the design practice. That's why designers shadow people, observe them, learn from them, and collaborate and co-design with them. This week, something I heard at a retreat by Coburn Ventures took my understanding to the next level--to walk in my shoes, take your shoes off first. Which elevates empathy one more notch and marries it with having an open mind (see No. 2).

Hidden benefit: connecting with your purpose.

6. See like a bird. 

In other words, see the big picture and think holistically about the problem and opportunity. To reconnect the dots in new ways, you need to look at the edges, have peripheral vision, and be inspired by the extremes. Designers often talk about outliers, the exceptions, and adjacencies. The ideas around the edges are invaluable to seeing things differently and creating new value.

Hidden benefit: seeing new patterns.

7. Pollinate like a bee. 

Muhammad Ali said, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." For DQ, pollinate like a bee from flower to flower, picking bits of information that excite you. Inspiration is seeing parts of the solution in different places before you can even intuit a direction or a potential solution. Designers will tell you that when they're working on a project, everything is a potential inspiration--a film, a museum exhibit, a pop-culture video, an ad on a billboard. Edison might claim inspiration is only 1 percent of the work, but it is a huge 1 percent. It is your unconscious pointing you in the direction of your ideas. This is hands down my favorite DQ factor.

"Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration." --Thomas Edison

Hidden benefit: making something as sweet as honey.

8. Don't be afraid not to know. Have a beginner's mind.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 and one of the most beloved CEOs in the U.S., signs every email with "Ancora Imparo," which translates as, "I am still learning." What about you? Are you still learning? Curiosity is the backbone of DQ. It is having a beginner's mind to look at a situation with new eyes, ask the questions experts won't ask, explore, and acquire knowledge from a wide variety of places to break our preconceptions. 

Hidden benefit: continuous learning.

9. Design thinking is dead without design doing. 

If you're sitting in a corner, in front of your computer, and ruminating about the scale of the problems you're faced with, you're most likely not making progress. Stand up, close your computer, look for some people, and get some cheap materials, easels, and markers. Start doing. You find 50-70 percent more creative solutions when you are exploring using multi-sensorial elements (see the work of Richard Mayer). Designers sketch, write, model on the computer, make mock-ups and prototypes. It's multimodal, and you get your hands dirty. As Don Norman says, "What innovation needs is Design Doing." Start doing.

Hidden benefit: action trumps inaction.

10. Iterate, iterate, iterate. 

Business leaders tend to develop one perfect idea, invest highly in it, and then are surprised when it fails. A much better way is iterating and trying multiple ideas in phases. You can't go immediately from zero to 100. That's why the design process has built-in phases--often called out as immersion/research, ideation, concept, design, development, implementation. Early ideas are rough, and there is strength in numbers. As you iterate and learn with each phase, you fail often and fast, but you also move to the next level. 

Hidden benefit: managing complexity.

11. Are you having fun yet?

If you're thinking like a designer, your mood is playful. When we're playing, we're like kids; we're not afraid of making mistakes. Jocelyn Wyatt, CEO of Ideo.org, a nonprofit organization focused on impacting the lives of the poor, believes that when you're dealing with serious problems, some levity is required. Often, the best ideas come from the worst places, from our mistakes and failures. 

"We can be our best selves and we can unlock the best in the partners that we're working with, and in the communities where we're working, when we do bring that playfulness and joy, rather than bringing sadness." --Jocelyn Wyatt

Hidden benefit: greater employee engagement.

12. What you visualize you can make happen.

In design, what you visualize you can make happen. When you want people to come to your home, you draw them a map. When you want them to come to the future with you, you also need to draw them a road map. It doesn't matter how crude your drawing, as long as it is a roadmap of the future. You paint a picture of things to come. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an idea visualized may be worth millions.

Hidden benefit: "pictorial superiority effect," your brain's higher ability to recognize and remember visual input.

13. People first, stupid.

If you think like a designer, you're signing up for thinking with "People First." You are at the service of people--your team, your department, your shareholders, your consumers. Make their life better, more joyful, easier. Measure how well you're putting people first. Acknowledge that this is different from being product-, tech-, and even profit-centric. It is life-centric.

"People first." --Alan Mulally, naming the first step of his process that saved Ford Motor Company from bankruptcy.

Hidden benefit: a deep sense of purpose.

Last week, I wrote, "knowing who you are and who you aspire to be on the innovation scale is half the battle. The other half is actually practicing it on a daily basis." These 13 principles are the other half. Get practicing. 

Published on: Nov 16, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.