Why Design Thinking Is Here to Stay
by Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik
The Design Thinking framework is being increasingly adopted by organizations of all kinds. Individuals and organizations are investing their time and money to learn and apply it to solve complex problems. But is Design Thinking something really useful, and is it here to stay, or is it just a new label and a passing fad?
As such, the principles behind Design Thinking have been evolving for years. Design Thinking combines these into a usable set, complete with principles, methods, tools and processes which make Design Thinking effective for solving complex problems and for creating useful products and services .
When we look at the world around us, it is clear that we need better approaches to handle real-life problems. The situations we face are complex, and systems are more interconnected and entangled. Our traditional design-and-development approaches created tightly-bounded solutions in isolation; these are not effective in today’s situation. It is also wrong to assume that only expert designers can know what is most suitable for everyone.
Let’s see how the key elements of Design Thinking make it suitable for solving complex problems.
Design Thinking is Human Centered
Design Thinking looks at problems impacting real people and then evolves solutions to create a better future for people. Design Thinking places heavy emphasis on understanding user behaviors in their real contexts, user-driven evaluation of design alternatives, and creating enhanced user experiences.
Design Thinking uses systems thinking
In Design Thinking, problems and solutions are understood and evaluated in terms of the interrelationships between components of the system and also their relation with other systems. This systems thinking approach also looks at short-term and long-term sustainability of the solutions (e.g., environmental impacts).
Design Thinking requires collaboration
According to Design Thinking, ‘all of us are smarter than any of us.’ The collaboration involves the core design team, the users, developers, engineers, experts, and other stakeholders. Even the work environment — workplace, meeting rooms and infrastructure and tools — are all set up to enable and encourage more team-work.
Design Thinking is also Design Doing
The framework encourages the design team to make solutions ‘tangible’ as quickly as possible. For this, they create prototypes, paper / cardboard models, videos, stories, and scaled-down working solutions, so that the solutions can be evaluated using as many senses as possible – visual, auditory, tactile (touch), etc. Design Thinking encourages the team to run “loose and lean”, in order to “fail fast to succeed sooner”.
Tolerance for ambiguity is embedded in Design Thinking
In Design Thinking , the team does not start with fixed ideas on the exact nature of the problem, or how the solution will work. The approach is to start with a vision and a direction, but without an exact destination or the path, with the confidence that one will end up somewhere great!
The Design Thinking framework is open and evolving. It is not proprietary to any organization. Academia, consultants and practitioners all over the world are constantly adding to its body of knowledge. They share success stories. Design Thinking continues to evolve and improve and there is no “entry barrier” involved.
The openness of Design Thinking is supplemented with a growing base of experienced Design Thinking users (individuals and organizations). Lots of well-known and well-respected organizations have whole-heartedly embraced the concepts of Design Thinking. These include Apple, GE, Google, SAP Labs, Nike, HP, IBM, P&G, and Infosys. This, in turn, means that more and more individuals and organizations will be open to trying it out, and it will spread and evolve even faster.
Design Thinking has absorbed and assimilated suitable practices from various disciplines and methodologies that have overlapping elements. Examples are Agile methodology, Ethnography, User Experience, Human-Computer Interaction, and Systems Thinking.
Most importantly, Design Thinking is particularly effective for tackling what are called “wicked problems” (see Wikipedia). It has moved beyond initial days when it was used to design products like cars, phones, and cameras.
“Wicked problems” are problems that are hard to understand and defy solutions. Such problems are increasing as the world becomes more complex and connected, and has multiple stakeholders who may have conflicting and unrecognized needs. Examples of wicked problems are found across many domains like health-care, urban infrastructure management, water resource management, pollution, and global warming. For example, ‘how do we get kids to improve their physical activity?’, ‘how do we handle solid waste in a city?’, ‘how do we make sure that the government subsidies reach the deserving?’ Design Thinking is able to provide creative, effective, out-of-box solutions because of its emphasis on human-centric and holistic approach, and early availability of usable systems to gather feedback and refine solutions.
We believe that Design Thinking is here to stay for the long run. What do you say?
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Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the authors :-).