Maybe We ARE On To Something At DBL

While I truly believe that understanding design thinking and developing a culture of design in a library organization can aid in the design of a better library experience for the user, I occasionally wonder if we are possibly buying into a passing fad. Are we just caught up in it or are we onto something here. Well, maybe its the latter and not the former.

Though not strong evidence, I offer as an indicator something I just recently came across in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (March 2007). This is a special issue that the editor describes as exploring “the significance and potential that the design sciences and the approaches that underpin them may have for organizational development.” The stated goal is to get the design sciences onto the readers’ agenda for further consideration of the fresh perspectives offered through the concepts, methods and practices of this field.

The issue is an interesting mix of articles by practitioners of organizational development and practicing designers. The addition of designers to the issue serves to provide the opportunity to communicate what the thinking and doing of design involves. So the questions remains, what exactly do the design sciences relate to, and is that the same as design thinking? In this issue the attention is paid primarily to the “design approach” which shares some elements of design thinking. Both focus on how things ought to be and not how things are. Disciplines such as architecture and engineering are identified as examples of design sciences. While the articles focus on the design approach there are similarities with design thinking in that both focus on identifying and better understanding problems and creating an intervention or solution. But one article does discuss the process of “thinking like a designer” which involves:

    1. Reflection, Analysis, Diagnosis and Description 
    2. Imagination and Visualization
    3. Modeling, Planning and Prototyping
    4. Action and Implementation

These four steps are quite similar to the design thinking process with the possible lack of an evaluation step. This special issue offers a great deal to think about, and many new article citations to review. But the discovery that a non-design discipline finds enough value in the design approach to dedicate an entire issue to it, I think, speaks volumes about the potential for integrating design concepts and practices into fields when the practitioners have never before thought much about design.

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