Design Thinking Blog

listening in on the conversation


Design Thinking: Are We Making Progress?

Posted by @dTblog under IMHO, Process
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progressIt has been a several years now since I launched the Design Thinking Blog. At the time, I felt that Design Thinking was poised to jump onto the business/management/innovation stage in a significant way. As I write this, I must admit that it has not happened with the intensity that I originally envisioned. Don’t misunderstand me, there is a great deal of conversation on the topic of Design Thinking…everything from seminars, videos and books to conferences. What I don’t see happening is Application.

It seems that most organisations are still deeply entrenched in “single disciplinary” approaches to bring innovation and solutions. But why?

In my consulting work with various groups and leaders, I try to bring the Design Thinking concepts to the forefront. I explain the goals, the processes and the quality of results that Design Thinking can bring. I honestly cannot remember any group or leader saying that they disagreed with what I was presenting. In the seminar settings, I see a great deal of excitement and acceptance of the principles. The participants readily join in on the “non-traditional” exercises and are even effective in getting positive results during the role playing and mock projects. However, the long term impact seems to be falling short.

When I have been employed by an organisation to walk with them through an actual project, I have been able to see where the breakdown occurs. Generally, it comes down to people being entrenched in the “ways of the past that worked in the past” (or at least seemed to). Very often, there are a few key stakeholders that will loose validation or position if the “innovation” process changes. At other times, the organisation struggles with leaders who tend to roll out “new ways” every year or so…and they have now become immune and resistant to new approaches.

In some of these cases I have been able to help them achieve enough success with Design Thinking to at least give it a fair chance. But honestly, there are too many that seem to be content to simply go into the conference room and try to brainstorm the “Next Great Thing!”

My hope is that over the next several years, we will see the change that I believe can happen. Design Thinking is more than just a strategy for innovation…it is an approach to viewing challenges and obstacles in a way that brings the best options and solutions to the forefront.

And the way things are going in this world….that is something we desperately need.

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Comment9Overview: Tim Parsons gives us a look at some of the implications of the ‘everyone is a designer’ thinking that is becoming more and more popular.

Thoughts: I can see some validity to his position.  He is coming from the perspective of a professional designer. The skill set and training that this group brings to a design project is vital.  However, when it comes to designing things or products – to say that the end user should be ignored is a bit short sighted.  Many product designers have gone through the soul killing process of creating a beautiful work, only to have it changed over and over again until it can be produced for the masses.  Why not talk with those you are designing for from the beginning and bring beauty to a collaborative process.  Very few designers have the luxury of behaving like highly paid artists. Most have to live in the practical world of making a living.

Original Post and Comments HERE at

The Myths of User-Centred Design

Tim Parsons

The extent to which members of the public not trained in design should be involved in the design process has become something of a hot topic over the past few years. Before the emergence of user-centred design, except for consulting market research reports or focus groups, designers were largely left alone to channel their predictions of the public’s desires and behaviour into their creations. Today in many areas of design and architecture, seeking the opinions of the public, and even designing with them, is now considered good practice. Global design consultancies such as IDEO expound the virtues of the designer acting as a facilitator, working in teams with non-designer stakeholders. Co-design has become a business model, both for companies selling research insights and as a means of enabling the public to have a more direct impact upon the look of the products they buy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Just had a very insightful meeting with Jeneanne Rae.  Jeneanne has been in the Design Thinking field since before it was called Design Thinking.  She was hired by David Kelley at IDEO to help grow the business integration part of that company as an MBA and a significant part of the growth into the company that they are today.  Since leaving IDEO, she has been working as a consultant to fortune 500 companies in the area of Service Design.

She regularly speaks at conferences and is an ongoing contributor to BusinessWeek.  She drinks dark roast coffee with both cream and sugar.

The majority of our time was focused on the best practices to involve End Users in the Service Design process.  One of the hallmarks of Design Thinking is breaking away from the “stakeholders only” mentality where insiders decide what they believe is needed, and then create and roll out the service or product. To be truly effective, the process must include regular involvement and feedback from those who will actually use the services (Users).

There are 3 key times for End Users to be involved:

  1. When you are doing your initial research into the “problem” that you are solving (your service proposition)
  2. When you are prototyping your services – BEFORE you implement
  3. Immediately after implementation – to make sure that you are actually solving the problem.

Let’s go deeper into each of those. Read the rest of this entry »

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Overview of this Article: This is a post covering the rise of demand and need for Designers – but describes “T’ shaped Designers – often also called “Design Thinkers”.

Thoughts on this Article: I like seeing the beginning of this wave – and hope that it continues.  The elements of Design Thinking and the skills of a Design Thinker have the potential to revolutionize many new start ups.  This should be fun to follow.

Original Article and comments HERE at TechCrunch

Earlier this week 500 Startups announced the creation of The, a designer-centric fund with the aim of increasing the number of startups co-founded by people who have design experience. As quite a few startups like Tumblr, YouTube, Android and Flickr have achieved success because of their designer founders, founder and 500 Startups designer Enrique Allen wants to foster a community that replicates their success.

Design is valued more right now than it ever has been, hence the Quora question “Why is there such a stunningly short supply of designers in Silicon Valley right now?” Indeed, Allen tells me that the new fund has one goal, “How do we address this problem that everyone and their momma wants a designer, and there’s none to be had?”

Well The’s solution is to ask 50 or so rockstar mentors in the field, like YouTube’s Christina Brodbeck, Facebook’s Ben Blumenfeld and Google’s Chris Messina to become mentors and/or contribute a minimum of 50K to the pool. When the fund hits 50 investors, it can then fund 50 design centered startups in return.

When asked whether the fund was looking specifically for a UX, UI, or just plain graphic designer founders, Allen told me he was looking for “T-shaped people” a.k.a people with in-depth experience in one area but a broad outlook and a wide range of experiences.

“It’s going to take a different breed, a new generation of designers that not only have visual ability, interaction ability, information architecture and everything from user research and discovery to design ethnography to really foster consumer innovation,” Allen said.


More in the interview, above.

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Overview of Post: A quick thought (with links) on some of the growing questions regarding  the definitions  and differences in the areas of Design Thinking.

Thoughts on Post: I agree that we are in need of some clarification and perhaps differentiation in the various worlds that Design Thinking is being used.  Most of my experience has been that each area mentioned below is using the skills of Design Thinking to impact a specific problem or system.  It can be a product, service, or position.  The process of Design Thinking is not limited or defined by any one field..

Recently, there has been a flurry of activity around some new terms, Design thinking and Design leadership. I think they are interesting terms, and describe some new directions for design. Design thinking, suggests to me, that designers have a different way of thinking – visual, abductive etc, which means that they have relevance outside of the product sphere (meaning also services).

Design leadership means two things to me. One is to achieve a leading position in the market through the strategic use of design (Apple comes to mind here… again). The second is to use design thinking in your role as a leader – that is – using design qualities in your leadership role. These are both exciting terms and a useful development from the design management term that has been around for quite some time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Overview of Article: There is a distinct skill called “Design” that is getting lost in all of the focus on Design Thinking.  As schools try to create multiple options for students, they are getting away from actually training the classical Designer.

Thoughts on this Article: I like Gadi and his insights. He is a hand’s on, real world designer that understands the demands that come with clients who expect quality.  This article reminds all of us that the whole Design Thinking movement is not simply the progression of Design, but rather the cousin of Design (I would say the brother of Design is the CAD). It is important that we do not diminish classical Design as we engage the growing world of Design Thinking, and that our schools find a clear way to distinguish between the nuances that are emerging.

Original article and discussion HERE at FASTCOMPANY.COM

American Design Schools Are a Mess, and Produce Weak Graduates

Famed designer Gadi Amit laments the lackluster quality of job applicants and their portfolios and wonders: Are design schools failing their students?

As head of a major Silicon Valley industrial design studio, I review hundreds or even thousands of portfolios every year. It is an essential part of my job as I look for the best people to join our growing team. Because the right mix of talent is so crucial to our success, I make it a principle to review every portfolio sent to us myself.

That commitment puts me in a bit of a tight spot, as I struggle to find the right way to say the right things to people whose high hopes I’m forced to dash. Despite the recent surge in interest in design careers, the quality of candidates’ portfolios seems to have stagnated or even diminished.

The problem has become increasingly acute. I’m eager to hire the next great class of designers, but to my dismay–and the dismay of many young hopefuls who’ve often spent many years and thousands of dollars preparing to enter the industry–I’m finding that the impressive academic credentials of most students don’t add up to the basic skills I require in a junior designer.

The quality of recent grads has stagnated or even diminished

Simply put, the design education system today is failing many aspiring young students. Read the rest of this entry »

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Overview: This addresses the ongoing conversation about the term “Design Thinking”

Thoughts: In all honesty, it really doesn’t matter, does it?  If people get the concept, and are able to be more effective in their processes, then who cares what it is called?  I do think the links in this post are worth following .

Original Post HERE at Peter Merholz site

I have a… complicated relationship with the phrase “design thinking”. Over 4 years ago, I wrote a post, “The Dark Side of Design Thinking” that looked at the shortcomings of the designer’s perspective, and even earlier, lamented how the phrase “design thinking” was being used to mean “thinking that I like,” and not really about design.

But then I also co-wrote a book that addresses the value of design approaches (and I’ve been known, in person, to say that it’s a book about “design thinking” that never uses the phrase “design thinking”).

I most recently blogged on Harvard Business about “Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You”, because I find myself, again, fed up with how people use this phrase in such a way that it’s essentially meaningless, and it seems to serve little more than helping sell design firms trying to be more strategic, or sell business magazines in desperate need of appearing hip.

The problem I faced in that post is that there’s no good alternative term for the kind of thinking I promote, which is a wildly multi-disciplinary approach. Dev tried with “hybrid thinking”, but I found that phrase too limiting. I considered “integrated thinking,” but it’s too vague, and too similar to Roger Martin’s integrative thinking. Perhaps the best term I found was “post-disciplinary,” ironically enough from IDEO’s Jane Fulton Suri (ironic because the rise of the phrase “design thinking” is pretty much all due to IDEO).

Something I don’t address in my post, but where I think there’s a real opportunity for exploration, is to identify how this wildly multi-disciplinary thinking actually does contribute to organizational success in the 21st century.


Crash Course in Design Thinking

Posted by @dTblog under Videos
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Overview of Site: This is just as it says..

Thoughts on this Site: Great Idea.  And some really good creative leadership thoughts that are presented.

We’ve collected the thoughts of 30 of the world’s most inspired creative professionals. Architects, designers, authors and leaders of iconic brands.

We asked them two questions: “What single example of design inspires you most?” and “What problem should design solve next?” Their answers might surprise you. But hopefully, they’ll all inspire you. Discover what they have to say. Then share your thoughts. After all, this is a conversation. We’d love for you to join.

Thoughts on this site:


Design thinking tips from the masters

Posted by @dTblog under Articles
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Overview of Post: A quick background to set up the links to 2 very good articles from someone who KNOWS what he is talking about.

Thoughts on this Post: I appreciate the desire that Jimmy Guterman has to get the rest of the articles out there.  We are often limited to how much space we have in writing and it causes some really good things to get cut.

Jimmy Guterman at 5:47 AM Tuesday, Mar 9, 2010

As Mark noted in his post introducing me, I’m winding down a stint as executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review. One of my greatest pleasures during that assignment was developing a special report on design thinking. Most of what gets published about design thinking focuses on getting analytical types to think more creatively. Usually there are a bunch of examples from Apple and IDEO, leaving CEOs and CFOs more confident about arguing over which shade of mauve to use as the background on a web page. Instead of taking that approach, we wanted to deliver some more practical and global lessons. Thanks to my fellow editor Sean Brown, two of my favorite elements of that special report, usually locked behind a paywall, are now available to all.

In How to Become a Better Manager … By Thinking Like a Designer, I talk to two of the smartest people on the planet when it comes to presentations, Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds, and we talk about how to influence and persuade in different ways than executive usually do, regardless of whether you ever have to communicate via PowerPoint.

In How Facts Change Everything (If You Let Them), I sit at the feet of the information design giant Edward R. Tufte. He explains how businesses would think better, make better decisions, and present themselves more powerfully if only they would learn to talk — both internally and externally — in facts. (Late-breaking Tufte news: he has just been appointed to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. In other words, someone whose whole career has been about promoting accountability and transparency will now be able to do so in the context of public service. We’re lucky to have him.)

I hope you enjoy these newly freed articles. And I hope you learn something from listening to Duarte, Reynolds, and Tufte. I know I did.

Jimmy Guterman (website, blog, twitter) writes, edits, and produces things.


Open Source Workshops

Posted by @dTblog under Articles, Design Thinking Teams
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Overview of Article: This is a look at Open Design City, how it came into being, and what the implications might be if this concept emerges as a solid trend.

Thoughts on this Article: OK – this is just marginally related to Design Thinking, but I thought it was worth making it available.  The underlying concept here is getting the end users involved in the actual creation and production process.  In a sense, it is taking Design Thinking and giving the end  users the actual tools to make what they think would work.

While that may sound fun – and probably would be a lot of fun to do – there are problems.  There is a reason that the DT process includes a collaborative process of varied perspectives.  It keeps the product or service from becoming self serving or ineffective.  Having the end user as the designer/creator/user would seem to be a very limiting perspective.

Original Article and comments HERE at FastCompany

A Peek at the Future of DIY: Open-source Workshops

Every product is beta!

DIY reigns in the virtual world. With so many old points of friction removed, we can freely and cheaply build our own blogs, e-books, and Web magazines. But making real, live stuff still seems like a slog reserved for those who know their way around a bandsaw.

Not anymore. The open-source revolution is putting product design in the hands of regular Joes. Take Berlin-based Open Design City (ODC). It’s a workshop in which anyone can learn to make just about anything, whether a bioplastic wallet (above) or a lamp made out of sweaters (up top). The recipe is simple: Gather people willing to share ideas and collaborate. Teach them to use a few power-tools. Then make things — cool things, not junk even your mother’d be too embarrassed to display.

It’s a movement that has the potential to upend traditional modes of industrial design and manufacturing — and even change how we consume products. “I strongly believe we’ll see more spaces emerging like this,” says Christoph Fahle, of Open Design City. “It’s not so much about scientific development, because this work doesn’t require rocket science. It’s more about creating the social interactions that invent new things. If you look at Facebook, it wasn’t just its technology that changed society; rather it was the social idea.” Read the rest of this entry »