Design Thinking is a Popular Term Adopted Rapidly Today that is Often Misunderstood. Let’s Take a Closer Look.
How do you break down and explain the process of creativity?
‘Design thinking’ is a popular term today, first introduced into the mainstream by the San Francisco consultancy, IDEO in the early 1990s to explain its own methodology in solving problems when working with clients. The phrase itself comes from Carnegie Mellon professor and Nobel Prize Laureate, Herbert Simon, who wanted to explain the process of human creativity in a systematic way. Since that time, the phrase has been adapted, modified and expanded to fit a variety of approaches and roles. There has also been some misconceptions regarding this term and the work of designers that the term ‘design thinking’ engenders. Here we address some of the primary ones.
Design thinking is a term first coined by Herbert Simon, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, in 1969 to attempt to explain the process of human creativity in a systematic way.
Interestingly enough, Herbert Simon was not a designer and did not create any visual works. He however was a pioneer in artificial intelligence. What can a human being do that a computer cannot? Questions like this help explain the value of design thinking for computer scientists, individuals and companies that are interested in harnessing the power of individual human creativity, but still want the familiarity of a repeatable, proven process.
Myth #1 The design process can be done by people who cannot design.
This is an interesting dilemma. Today there are increasing numbers of private companies offering to teach ‘Design Thinking’ at the corporate level and for universities without actually including any design or creative input. They seem to be avoiding and circumventing the actual creative process. While having the gift of communication (oral and written) is admirable, teaching ‘design thinking’ as a self-sufficient design practice without having the prerequisite design skills does not make any sense. That eliminates the majority of actual design, which is hands-on and requires great individual skill. In essence, such training teaches the theory without the practice. It is similar to offering you how to paint by just talking about the process of painting and never actually painting. Perhaps their customers would be better and more honestly served by offering to teach them the theory of design thinking since that is in effect, what they are offering.
Herbert Simon did not downplay the value of creativity or design skills. He just sought a way to bring the creative conceptual thinking behind design, into work processes. He aimed to open up the design ‘thinking’ process to people who were not designers and who stayed away from non-linear, non-scientific processes. He tried to bridge the gap in understanding. Using a ‘design thinking’ approach helped businesses and organizations look at problems differently, and thus propose different solutions.
Fact: ‘Design thinking’ works if you have actual skilled designers guiding the process. You can’t just talk your way through design - you have to do it and that requires tremendous skill, precision, craftsmanship, and a keen awareness of composition, beauty and balance.
The value in having a design thinking approach is to bring understanding of the creative process, solicit feedback and make design more accessible to businesses.
Myth #2 Design thinking replaces actual design.
By far, this assumption about design thinking is the most dangerous and misleading. Design thinking as an approach helps in providing insight into the process. Design, as designers who work in the field on a daily basis know, involves both a conceptual aspect as well as physical action in creating and fine-tuning designs. This conceptual aspect, particularly when it involves software or digital design, can benefit from feedback from other designers and other members of the company or organization involved with customer engagement. This collaborative initial step helps bring all parties involved in the decision-making process on the same page, so that all necessary feedback and relevant data is gathered to make the best, informed decisions. For example, with a product that you are selling to consumers, this process can help you in discovering unmet needs and learn where people are dissatisfied with using the current version of your product. Thus design thinking enables cooperation and collaboration in the first step - discovery and research into the problem at hand that you are solving. This brainstorming process is helpful but only as an initial step.
There is a lot more effort involved to take the “brainstormed” idea from conception to completion. The remaining steps involve excellent design skills, precision and craftsmanship with many iterative, detailed cycles till final delivery. The act of creation itself is an original process unique to the individuals involved who drawn upon their creative abilities and experiences.
Fact: While a ‘design thinking’ approach opens up the initial discovery process and can bring all parties (clients, partners, company staff and stakeholders) to an understanding of what is needed to design a solution, design thinking never replaces the original process of creation itself. The process of design cannot be completed beyond the discovery phase by people who lack actual design skills. Design skill, precision and craftsmanship cannot be replaced by just ‘thinking’ or ‘talking’ about design. Design is an original process that requires actual design skills.
Design is an original process that requires actual design and craftsmanship skills.
What then is the value of design thinking?
'Design thinking' is a great way to help explain the value of design and to bring in feedback from people at a company into the discovery process. It is a way of explaining the process involved to bring people together on the same page. It offers a way to provide a consistent process in creating new products or services for businesses.
Explaining the value of design can often feel intangible and be hard to put into words. This dilemma prompted us to research the topic and explain design results in actual monetary terms and the value of design in terms of the bottom line for businesses. This article has been shared over 3,700 times. The most important lesson that we take away from that research is how integrating design into business practice leads to the creation of better, intuitive products, services and experiences for customers.
Design is about providing an excellent, intuitive and empathetic customer experience. How does your customer experience your product or service?
Design thinking helps bridge the gap in understanding that often accompanies the creative design process. It offers a way to provide a consistent process in creating new products or services for businesses.