Introducing Design Thinking To Librarians

When I first started introducing design thinking in my occasional presentations, I went a fairly traditional route that included offering a definition, giving a list of bullet points that summarized what I would call the IDEO Method (a variant on ADDIE) as described in the book “The Art of Innovation“, and giving some visual examples of design work and how the design thinking process was being applied to solve business challenges. That approach worked reasonably well but was perhaps a bit too vague. Attendees did not really grasp the concept as well as I would have liked.

So I began to try something a bit different that was more visual, and would hopefully give a more practical look at the IDEO Method. Having watched The Deep Dive many times and used the full DVD presentation in longer workshops I thought there might be a way to use the video but in a much compressed format. So I decided to make a short video, about 2:30 minutes, that would offer a series of highlights from the full-length video. Although my video editing skills are somewhat weak, I was able to use my Flip camera to record the segments off my computer screen and then weave them together into a single short video that I can embed in my presentations. Then I follow that wilth 6 slides that feature stills from the video, and each one is used to explain how design thinking occurs in a practical way. As I tell my audience, all the essential basics of design thinking are found in The Deep Dive. Based on the observations made by attendees after they watch the video and as I breakdown the IDEO Method, I can see they are really doing a much better job of “getting” what I mean when I talk about design thinking.

Although I haven’t yet had time to read Warren Berger’s book Glimmer (it’s on my reading list) I have found myself learning from his blog Glimmersite. I’ve also found his series of videos on design thinking quite educational. So I wanted to bring the book, blog and video to your attention as good design thinking resources, but I also wanted to point to one of Berger’s post that I’ll be adding to my resource list for those who attend my sessions. I think it is right up there with the IDEO Method for explaining design thinking to those new to it. In this post Berger shares the notes from his presentation about “understanding how designers think and what the rest of us can learn from that” – which pretty much sums up why I spend time on this topic and sharing it with others.

The leading paragraphs of the post really resonated with me because they reflect my own experience in learning about design thinking. My initial learning didn’t come from books or videos, but from designers themselves. I worked at Philadelphia University, which over the years I was there evolved into a design university with nearly half of the curriculum dealing with the different design professions, from architecture to instructional to fashion. As a result, I connected with a quite a few designers (most of our faculty came from practice and many kept positions with actual design firms). At the time I didn’t know about the emerging conversation about design thinking. I was just beginning to see that the designers had a somewhat different way of thinking about and doing their work. I could see the common threads running through these different disciplines. As Berger puts it:

For the past few years, while working on my design book Glimmer, I’ve been venturing inside the minds of top designers. And I’d like to talk now about what goes on in those minds. And what all of us—whether we’re designers or not—can learn from the study of what goes on in there. So what does go on in designer’s heads? Well, you could say that a lot of what happens in there could be categorized as “design thinking.”

I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do, with more success recently than in the past, in my presentations – to explain to librarians why we can achieve better libraries when we understand what goes on in the minds of designers. In my future presentations it’s likely I’ll draw on this post by Berger because I like the five basic principles about what does go on in the mind of the designer that we can learn from. He summarizes them as:

1. QUESTION everything, believing there’s always a better way.
2. CARE about what people actually need.
3. CONNECT ideas that seem unrelated, via “smart recombinations.”
4. COMMIT bring ideas to life through visualization and prototyping.

I happen think these principles can apply to anyone—including people working in government, in hospitals, in schools, and simply leading daily lives. And that’s the case I make in Glimmer.

That list of five items is a bit different than the IDEO Method that I currently share, but there are great commonalities between the two. Where Berger and IDEO seem to co-exist is in the promotion of ideas – and where they come from. Berger writes: “don’t look for great ideas in your own front yard”—you’ve already dug up that soil and there’s nothing new there. Look for stuff way out in left field—then bring it back to your domain, and make the connections.” If there’s anything you learn from The Deep Dive, it’s that you need to get out to the experts to learn from them, and that all sorts of ideas should be shared within diverse teams of designers/planners. I hope you’ll read Berger’s post and that it will open up some new insights into design thinking for you.

3 thoughts on “Introducing Design Thinking To Librarians”

  1. Hello,

    really great to read your post about design thinking. I just finished a project on designing a game for librarians to think like designers and generate new services and roles for the future library. Would be good to hear more of your experiences, especially the difficulties you come up against.

    I’ll be posting my work up very soon (when I get a moment) but would be interested in you taking a look.

    I’m also working with Skills Development Scotland to develop a toolkit which allows frontline staff to think like designers…and inturn improve their service. I think the point berger makes about what goes on inside a designer’s head is spot on, it would be great if we could put that into an exilir sometimes and pass around, if only to see things a little differently.

    anyway, nice read, thank you. 🙂

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