In reading business magazines and new book titles, it seems that the world is getting curious as to what Design Thinking is all about – or maybe wondering if there is money to “found” in this new concept.
For those of us who teach and practice Design Thinking, there is still a huge debate over the “true” definition and whether the process that is used should even be called “Design Thinking”. Our internal debate can be challenging at times.
What we do agree upon is that the single most significant contribution of Design Thinking is that it offers a holistic approach to solving problems/creating products. “Holistic” in that it is not self limiting – it does not focus one “type of knowledge” or “school of thought” to find possible solutions.
Design Thinkers in the field of mobile devices are just as likely to go to the zoo for insights and inspiration as they are to look at other Industrial Design concepts. The arrogance so often associated with “pure” schools of thought is absent for true DTrs. (This is actually where Design Thinking departs from traditional Design).
It is also holistic in the emphasis on tapping the ENTIRE brains’ ability to bring insight and create solutions.
While this is not a new concept (LB/RB approaches have been around for at least 25 years) Design Thinking has given a reliable development and delivery approach for the concept. In most of the LB/RB models, each group is given the opportunity to have input into the project, and someone takes the input and decides which group really has the better approach. This does not bring the SYNTHESIS that Design Thinking values, but rather a push towards discernment of one view over the other.
Creatives FEEL they have the best approach, Analytics KNOW they have the best approach…and the two groups will argue and dismiss one another almost every time. Design Thinking provides a way for both RB (creatives) and LB (analytics) to VALUE each other and BUILD on each others’ insight.
Another holistic factor is that the person(s) that will be most impacted by the solution (UX, user, customer, patient) is allowed to be part of the project from the very beginning. Their perspective is unique and important. They give insights into the underlying problems that may have been overlooked, and provide valuable feedback along the way. They can also speak to the likelihood of proposed solutions actually being adopted and advise on how best to present the final product/service to those who are expected to use it.
While having end users as part of the process is not new (focus groups have been around for a long time) what is new is the level of importance that is placed on the insights they bring to the process.
Every now and then I will have someone bring up the infamous quote attributed to Steve Jobs “We don’t build for focus groups – we build what we like”. Clearly, Apple has done a fantastic job figuring out what to build that works well, looks great, and people will use.
So does that kill the entire argument for users being a part of the process? No. It validates the concept.
In reality, what Apple does is function in all three areas (LB/RB/UX). They hire great engineers and designers and let them build stuff they would like to use. But in most situations, the company/organization working on a new product or solution does not have that privilege. They are somewhat removed from those that are end users of the product/service.
Another interesting variation of Apple’s approach is the group Mother Teresa led, the Missionaries of Charity. They live and work with those they are serving. They use all their God given abilities to understand the problems of those they serve and bring them effective solutions. And they have also been very successful.
If there is one area that Design Thinking has not effectively addressed is it the implementation challenge. In some situations, the biggest challenge is not really determining the best product/solution, but getting that product /solution implemented. Design Thinking teams should put as much effort into making sure that it happens as they do into making sure it is created.
Overall, Design Thinking really does have tremendous advantages over most traditional approaches.
It is a framework that is holistic,
a method that is teachable,
and a process that is proven.
Why wouldn’t you want to use it?