There’s been quite a bit of flurry about Design Thinking of late (including the most recent #lrnchat), and I’m trying to get my around what’s unique about it. The wikipedia entry linked above helps clarify the intent, but is there any there there?
It helps to understand that I’ve been steeped in design approaches since at least the 80’s. Herb Simon’s Sciences of the Artificial argued, essentially, that design is the quintessential human activity. And my grad school experience was in a research lab focused on interface design. Process was critical, and when I was subsequently teaching interface design, I was tracking new initiatives like situated design and participatory design, anthropological efforts designed to get closer to the ‘customer’.
In addition to being somewhat obsessive about learning how people learn, and as a confirmed geek continually exploring new technology, I also got interested in design processes beyond interface design. As my passion was designing learning technology solutions to meet real needs, I explored other design approaches to look for universals. Along the way I looked at industrial, graphic, architectural, software, and other design disciplines. I also read the psychological research on our cognitive limitations and design approaches. (I made a small bit of my career on bringing the advances in HCI, which was more advanced in process, to ed tech.)
The reason I mention this is that the elements of Design Thinking: being open minded, diverging before converging, using teams, empathy for the customer, etc, all strike me as just good design. It’s not obvious to me whether it gets into the nuances (e.g. the steps in the Wikipedia article don’t allow me to see whether they do things like ensure that everyone takes time to brainstorm on their own before coming together; an important step to prevent groupthink), but at the granularity I’ve seen, it seems to be quite good. You mean everyone isn’t already both aware of and using this? Apparently not.
So in that respect, Design Thinking is a win. If adding a label to a systematized compendium of good practices will raise awareness, I’m all for it. And I’m willing to have my consciousness raised that there’s more to it, because as a proponent of design, I’m glad to see that folks are taking steps to help design get better and will be thrilled if it adds something new.