What is design thinking and is it for you and me?

Thinking like a designer can transform the way you design products, services, processes – and even strategy – Tim Brown

Newspapers are abuzz with the term ‘design thinking’ these days. In fact they may have written about it earlier, however it caught my attention recently when a big corporation decided that most of its staff be trained on ‘design thinking’. It kind of intrigued me and filled me with some questions. Why would an Organisation insist on design thinking?  Is design thinking for all? Can you and I inculcate it? Can it help us improve something (like efficiency) or reduce something (like cost or time)?  Can we follow it in our daily routine? Does design thinking require me to have some special skills like drawing?

The final question of drawing scared me. My school teacher would have got equally scared because neither I nor he could ever recognise what I drew in my class.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result.Slide1

In this regard it is a form of solution-based or solution-focused thinking – starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. By considering both present and future conditions and parameters of the problem, alternative solutions may be explored simultaneously.

I followed a couple of key words: Solution focused thinking; better future.

I could instantly see some applications. If it helps build solution centric mind-set and takes into account current and future scenarios, it can be used by all of us irrespective of the work that we do.

Does it follow any process?

There has been dichotomy on the thinking process scientists follow and the one designer follows. Some say scientists follow analysis (to loosen up) and designers follow synthesis (to put together) methods of thinking. Authorities in design thinking David Kelly and Tim Brown argue that design thinking uses both analysis and synthesis.

The seven steps of design thinking:

Design thinking process

One version of the design thinking process suggests seven stages: (i) define; (ii) research; (iii) ideate; (iv) prototype; (v) choose; (vi) implement and (vii) learn.

These steps encourage an individual and teams to frame the problem, ask the right questions, have more ideas and arrive at best answers.

Common traits shared in design thinking:

Here are some traits that are often seen common in design thinkers.

Creativity : They use imagination and ideas to create something.

Ambidextrous thinking : They are able to use left brain (Logic) and right brain (Creative).Empathy

User centeredness (Empathy) : They develop the ability to understand and share the feeling of others.Curiosity

Curiosity : They display a strong desire to know or learn something.

Optimism : They consistently have the hope and confidence about the future.

Do we have these skills? While you may want to do some self-assessment and soul searching,  I think each one of us have these skills. The degree may vary. A conscious awareness and finding opportunity in our daily routine can help us improve upon these skills further.

If the team is able to demonstrate these skills than managing projects, achieving breakthroughs and advancing at a speed better than the competition are some of the fascinating outcomes for the Organisation and perhaps much more.

No wonder why this big software Organisation finds deeper value and insists on having most of its staff trained on design thinking.

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1 Comment

  1. Quite a well rounded use of left & right brain. Only challenge can be to get caught in process which is a right brain activity while in progress of initial phases which are left brain activities. Thanks for sharing this.

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