You may have heard the phrase "Design Thinking" in your travels, but do you really understand what it means? It's crucial that you do if you want to grow your department and your career.

Design thinking is the union of analytics, metrics, statistics + creativity, empathy, and intuition. In other words, we're shifting from the Industrial Age to the Age of Knowledge. Moving from working within set boundaries to looking beyond these boundaries to redefine and recreate relationships, products, and ways of marketing our brands.

The left side of the brain is associated with reasoning, numbers and statistics; this side of the brain has been long-valued in the business world. This one-sided approach to running the world (and likely your company) has resulted in the Great Recession and incredible job losses. Enter stage right. The right brain is creative, emotive and compassionate. But to run a company only with a right-brained approach disregarding numbers or reasoning is also not the key to success. Each of us has both left and right hemispheres in our brain, and while each of us is generally stronger with one versus the other, we have the potential to use both sides. And that's what Design Thinking is all about--using all of our brainpower. Design Thinking incorporates all departments, not just design, into a holistic, compassionate look at the problem, the goal and the path between the two.

So why should you care about this? Because companies that run on a Design Thinking model have a shared language across all divisions and a deep respect for their creative team's contribution. This can translate into a peer advocating for you when you're not present, financial investments in Creative Services such as a CS5 upgrade or PTO days for the long hours your team invested in that huge program that just rolled out.

Design Thinking within design should be a given. Creatives should always think holistically and beyond the frame of expectation; we give what the client asks for and what we think is the most effective solution to the problem. The Design Thinking shift comes in when our clients realize what we bring to the table and value our contribution at the same level they respect finance and legal's contribution. In order for this shift to happen, you need to ask yourself if your team is truly thinking this way (as a strategic partner versus an order taker) and asking the right questions as a result. It's our responsibility to lead by example and guide them if they're not there yet. Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, says "I see organizations, corporate or otherwise, asking broader, more strategic, more interesting questions of designers than ever before. Whether as designers we are equipped to answer these questions may be another matter."

It's true that certain phrases defy one concrete definition; Design Thinking is one of them. How can we define something that is evolving and affects the entire planet's approach to business and interpersonal relationships? It's a paradigm shift that is happening all around us. It's also true that the more we practice it, the more it becomes an ingrained way of every day business.

Read, research and introduce Design Thinking to your team and stakeholders as a widely accepted practice that is recognized as vital to the success of a business. In particular, I recommend reading Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind. It's fun, quick, written for creative and layperson alike and easy to understand. In fact, leave a copy on your CFO's desk. (I receive no financial gain from Mr.Pink or his publisher...I just love this book.) Another compelling read is about Claudia Kotchka. Ms. Kotchka was an accounting major who ultimately became the head design executive at P&G. She believes that "only when they understand what design is, do they really value it." A quick search will yield multiple articles on her rise and transformation from accounting to design/management guru.

Get educated about Design Thinking and then use the tools you've gained to define a path toward helping your team and colleagues become Design Thinkers. Be a part of the cultural shift that values creativity as much as number crunching and have fun doing it.