Design Thinking Blog

Design Thinking Blog

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Design Thinking: Are We Making Progress?

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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6 Responses to Design Thinking: Are We Making Progress?

  1. I agree with a lot that is said in this post. People get so much caught in the “business as usual” thinking and rhetoric that they simply cannot see the benefits of different approaches. It’s somehow easier to resist the change. Design thinking offers so much possibilities and persistence is the key in seeing the end result of its application.

  2. I agree too. I have seen lots of people who are afraid of “new ways” or “changes”. And to think, most of them are leaders. However, most of the time, the only way to gain successor to become progressive is through changes.

  3. I think one of the necessary catalysts to get Design Thinking to take root in a company is finding a standard bearer to herald in the change. You need at least one true believer to keep pushing the concept through despite all the criticism, discouragement and resistance they may meet along the way. I’m in the baby stages of that now, and I’m constantly being pushed aside with the “too busy” mantra. Oh well. Gotta push onward and keep the faith!

  4. I think you are right. People are so afraid of changes or to busy to change things up. Nevertheless, Design Thinking can open up so many new possibilties. But it stays hard to applicate it.
    I’m planning to take this course on Design Thinking that starts in April: It looks very promising! Hope I can find some new ideas here!
    Thanks for this great post!

  5. I also agree with this as I see the same scenery in my consulting job. But how do we make the change? We agree that Design Thinking offers possibilities, but somehow it’s not enough to convince people to change their “old behaviours”..

  6. Maybe the answer is in getting the internal advocate (or as Jon wrote above, the standard bearer) to marshal a team of younger employees who are less entrenched in the status quo and more open to change. This team dynamic could help keep everyone motivated as they work as a catalyst within the organization and push ahead with their energy and optimism.


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