I have been watching ”Design Thinking” very closely for a long time now, often amused on how it is unfolding in both the design and non-design industries. At this time I’m curious it is evolving, and having strong suspicions on how it can be an element to bridge the “language gap” between Design and the Business.
Interestingly, since I started watching this topic in 2006, everyone who is anyone (including yours truly) jumped with their $0.02 cents worth in trying to figure out just what this is all about. However many posts never seem to get the idea of Design Thinking right, and the definition and objectives for Design Thinking never clearly expressed.
I started this discussion in June 2006 with my post “Everybody is talking about design, creativity & entrepreneurship“. In it I concluded that while Tom Peters suggested that “Design was It”, it was not clear, at least to me, to do what? It sounded to me more about encouraging a more creative businesses mindset or managing innovation and creativity within an organizations.
In Nov 2008 with “Design Thinking or Just Thinking“, I lamented that it looks like Design Thinking was just plain old Thinking after all! However I did hypothesize that: “Design Thinking is a thinking process that anchors your decision making with multi-disciplinary influences”. I think I was getting close, but I still missed context, the “Why” we do this. Why would non-designers (the Business in this case) be interested in Design Thinking and the Design Process?
More recently, a number of online posts on this topic has push this issue, in my humble opinion, to a tipping point.
John Maeda, in his post Learning from How Designers Think and Work, focused on Designer’s value and pits Designers to be “experience perfectionists”. Unfortunately, the purpose of such “experience perfectionists” is still not clear.
Bruce Naussbaum in his usual misrepresentation of designers asked: Is Design Too Important To Be Left Only To Designers? In this case he talks about how designers are angry/concerned/afraid of “other people” working with design thinking, or design processes, or how designers are still stuck in their silos. Not sure to which designers he has been speaking to, but much ado about nothing as usual. Do check out the brilliant blog response by Robert Brunner called “Is Design Too Important To Be Left to Thinkers”.
The good news is that I think we are now a step closer. John Edson who wrote “Designing Business; Businessing Design“. Describes Design Thinking within organizations by this:
Empowering the drive to create products aimed at the needs of real people is this question: Does the business culture favor conversation–or is it stuck in hierarchical control? Classic business management education values control and it depends on deductive reasoning to create that control. “The most important business transformations cannot be proven before they are undertaken,” promotes Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. “Analytical and deductive reasoning practices in business destroy value.”
In my view, it’s crucial for business to awaken to the powers of design. I don’t think that future enterprises will be able to connect to customers or remain competitive without increasingly fluid and agile management practices that respond more to the idiosyncrasies of real people than to the current fiscal quarter’s numbers.
But when it comes to the profession of design, discovering and answering the unmet needs of customers requires a designer’s ability to move beyond the expected. It’s our job to create these wonderful expressions, giving personality to a company and delight to the customer.
Reads a little complicated? Let me try to distill. So why are businesses so interested in design thinking?
In my humble opinion, designers have the ability, through their consumer insights and boundless thinking, to come up with un-tested opportunities that businesses are not able to due to the culture and way in which companies are run. The common results focused business culture thrives on the tried and tested, which business leaders know is not conducive for the future and the next big product break through. It is the designers ability to manage and work with the risk of the unknown (concepts, designs etc.) that is going to help win the day.
A perfect partnership don’t you think?
Image source: swisscan