Category Archives: Design Thinking

Prominent Design Thinker Moves On

Nearly everyone was surprised to read Bruce Nussbaum’s latest essay about design thinking titled “Design Thinking is a Failed Experiment: So What’s Next”. I first shared a link to Nussbaum with DBL readers back in 2007, and recommended his blog as a good source of information about design thinking and user experience. Since then Nussbaum has been a leading proponent of design thinking as a way to improve organizations and increase creativity and innovation. In his regular columns about design thinking for BusinessWeek Nussbaum would share great insights into how organizations were using design thinking to achieve better results. How is it that someone so connected with design thinking would write “The decade of Design Thinking is ending and I, for one, am moving on.”

The gist of Nussbaum’s farewell to design thinking is that the business community has failed to apply design thinking as it was intended – or as it is applied in the design community. The failure is not so much about what design thinking is as the way that business has turned it into a process for achieving creativity. He writes:

Design Thinking originally offered the world of big business–which is defined by a culture of process efficiency–a whole new process that promised to deliver creativity. By packaging creativity within a process format, designers were able to expand their engagement, impact, and sales inside the corporate world. Companies were comfortable and welcoming to Design Thinking because it was packaged as a process…There were many successes, but far too many more failures in this endeavor. Why? Companies absorbed the process of Design Thinking all to well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation.

It seems to me that Nussbaum is saying that business has warped the intent of design thinking by trying to turn it into a totally rational, analytical process for achieving creativity – in other words – trying to turn it into every other business fad such as TQM or Sigma Six. If you apply the process and follow the process it will provide the desired results. Only, according to Nussbaum, it didn’t. Nussbaum appears to have lost his optimism about design thinking’s capacity to serve as a process to help business become more creative and ultimately better organizations with improved products and services. In his post, Nussbaum still has some great things to say about design thinking’s impact has on improving some areas of society, but it ultimately hasn’t delivered on creativity. That’s where Nussbaum is headed. He writes:

In my experience, when you say the word “design” to people across a table, they tend to smile politely and think “fashion.” Say “design thinking,” and they stop smiling and tend to lean away from you. But say “creativity” and people light up and lean in toward you… I believe the concept of Creative Intelligence expands that social engagement even further… I am defining Creative Intelligence as the ability to frame problems in new ways and to make original solutions.

Hmm. Does Creative Intelligence sound somewhat like design thinking? Isn’t the goal of design thinkers to creatively identify problems and develop thoughtful solutions – the way that designers do? There are over 80 comments to Nussbaum’s post and many of them take up this point. At least one blogger agreed with Nussbaum, and provided a good discussion on the connection between creativity and innovation (saying that business saw design thinking as the path to innovation).

That Nussbaum says he is moving on to something new should be of little concern to those of us who find value in design thinking. His concerns seem more focused on the way business used design thinking – and the fact that there were more failures than successes – than the process of design thinking itself. But there’s a useful lesson here (and in the video interview with Tim Brown he provides in his post – see the 16-25 minute area) that if you just look at design thinking as a rote series of steps that you can apply to any problem, it’s bound to fail. The focus needs to be on the generation of creativity in developing solutions – on the outcomes. I will be interested in Nussbaum’s book on Creative Intelligence that comes out next year. I wonder what he will say about design thinking, and what more Creative Intelligence can offer us.

Designers Think Differently

It’s one thing to say that design thinking, at its core, is about thinking the way designers think – but what does that really mean and how can you best articulate exactly what is unique about the way designers approach problems that leads to innovation. In this HBR Conversations Blog post titled “How Good Designers Think” Simon Rucker does a nice job of sharing his ideas on what makes the design thinking process unique. He does make a reference to a 2007 blog post by Bruce Nussbaum on the intangible assets of design thinkers. Rucker breaks down the work of designers into three areas: insight; inspiration; action.

Here are a couple of highlights from Rucker:

* “Good designers aim to move beyond what you get from simply asking consumers what they need and want” – Designers want to find out what consumers won’t tell them or directly ask for – that’s where great innovations come from – giving people something they want or think they need without them even asking for it. Don’t think of people as consumers – but as people who need/want things. So instead observe.

* “Good designers want to solve problems — and this makes them want to transform insights into inspiration.” – As has been said many times before here designers are about figuring out what the problem is and how to fix it. Good designers are inspired to imagine the future.

* “When good designers talk about innovation, they mean (and I make no apologies for cribbing Lord Sainsbury’s much-quoted definition), “the successful exploitation of new ideas.” They don’t stop with the invention. They turn their inspirations into reality.” This is perhaps the most important point for librarians. We may come up with many ideas, some of them actually even good, but we too often fail to move our ideas to the implementation stage. Rucker offers some thoughts on what enables designers to get to implementation from idea.

So if you prefer to keep things simple as you work to understand how designers think and as you integrate these principles into your practice, you might just find Rucker’s three-part formula effective:

1 – Insight: They Look at What We Don’t Know

2 – Inspiration: They Look for What to Do

3 – Action: They Keep Going

Insights. Inspiration. Action

Managing As Designing: A Worthwhile Discovery

While I cannot quite recall where I came across it, most likely in one of the two dozen or so design-oriented blogs that I follow, I recently discovered the book Managing as Designing. First published in 2004, it was edited by Richard Boland and Fred Collopy, two faculty members at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. The book itself is the product of a Managing as Design Seminar that took place at the then recently completed Peter B. Lewis Building, home of the Weatherhead School. What triggered the seminar, book, and even a DVD about the seminar, was Boland’s experience working with Frank O. Gehry on the design and construction of the Lewis Building. In the first chapter, Boland and Collopy write:

During the four and one-half years of working with Gehry Partners on the planning, design and construction of the Lewis Building, we experienced an approach to problem solving that is quite different from our own, from that of the managers we study, and from what we teach our students. We refer to this mind-set and approach to problem solving as a “design attitude”…What is needed in managment practice and education today is the development of a “design attitude” which goes beyond default solutions in creating new possibilities for the future.

As you read this chapter you can feel how impressed Boland and Collopy were with what they were learning about the design attitude from Gehry and his associates. It had such a profound impact on them that they became determined to radically change the nature of business education at Weatherhead. The term “design thinking” is used here and there in the book, but Boland and Collopy seem to prefer their own design attitude. Perhaps if they were writing this book today they would use the term design thinking. As I read different chapters I kept asking myself how I could have missed this book for so long? When I first became interested in design thinking in 2006 there was far less material being generated about it, and having this book would have been a big help in shaping my thinking. It was actually in the collection at the library I was working at back then; I just missed it.

In the first chapter, Boland and Collopy expand on the differences between their traditional “decision attitude” and the design attitude they were learning from Gehry. The decision attitude, which was the long-held focus of management education, towards problem solving was “overwhelmingly dominant in management practice…and solves problems by making rational choices among alternatives and uses tools such as economic analysis, risk assessment, multiple criteria decision making, simulation, and the time value of money.” The design attitude by contrast “is concerned with finding the best answer possible given the skills, time, and resources of the team, and takes for granted that it will require the invention of new alternatives. The decision attitude assumes there is already an optimal solution to the problem, and that managers just need to be rational and analytical in order to identify that solution. The design attitude allows for the possibility that the solution doesn’t already exist, and that a team will need to create a new, untried possibility. One can’t help but make a connection between these ideas and Martin’s “opposable mind” and “knowledge funnel” models of how design influences decision making so that it is a blending of the rational and intuitive mind in which the goal is to neither choose solution A or B but rather innovate solution C.

You don’t need to read every essay in this book. Some are highly theoretical, others may be more design specific than desired. One chapter to explore is the one titled “The Role of Constraints” by Vandenbosch and Gallagher. They discuss how dealing with constraints impacts the work of artists and architects, and that it is important to acknowledge that constraints are fundamental to the design process. Designers must constantly deal with constraints, and appreciating them can lead to improved creativity. There’s hardly a project in the academic library that is free of constraints, be it time or money. I think this is an area where we can learn a great deal from design in learning how to turn our constraints in thinking opportunities – and I hope to write more about this.

If you don’t have time to read Managing as Design you can get the gist of the ideas and applications by watching this interview with Richard Boland or you can now view the original DVD made to accompany the workshop. It is found in seven parts on YouTube. Start with this video. By the way, discovering these videos has also been a great part of this find. I hope you will enjoy learning from them.

An Interview With Roger Martin

If you were thinking this post was about an interview I conducted with Roger Martin, well, sorry to have misled – though I’d certainly like that opportunity. But the folks at did interview Martin. They produce the weekly Innovation Newsletter which features in depth reviews with many great thought leaders who share their insights into innovation, creativity, teamwork and much more. I subscribe to their weekly e-mail alert which helps me stay on top of the latest interviews. I was pleased to discover a new interview with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto. “Diving Into Mysteries” is an interview well worth reading even if you have previously read Martin’s books such as The Opposable Mind and the Design of Business.

The bulk of the interview focuses on the themes explored in The Design of Business. It all starts with the mystery. Martin states that “Innovation is taking out of a mystery some form of understanding that enables you to focus on some things rather than others…You extract out of a broad, mysterious cloud the things that help you make sense of what you are seeing. That’s a heuristic. Heuristics are ways of thinking about a mystery that helps us to better understand it…The best innovators recognize mysteries, and are brave enough to dive into them.” If you’ve read the Design of Business this interview will refresh you on the core concepts, and if you’ve not yet had an opportunity to do so it will introduce you to Martin’s perspective on design thinking and introduce you to the knowledge funnel.

Speaking of perspectives on design thinking, I recently attended – for the first time – a webcast sponsored by the Stanford School of Design. I was pleased to become aware of these free learning opportunities (even with the promos for the School’s online workshops – but it is still a great way to hear some excellent speakers). The program I attended was titled “Design Thinking and Peak Performance” (sponsored by the Innovation Masters Series: Design Thinking & the Art of Innovation). I’ve provided the link so you can take a look at the webcast. If you have been following the literature on design thinking most of this will sound familiar to you, but I picked up a few new ideas and thoughts about design thinking.

Given my recent reading of the Martin interview I asked the speakers what their perspective was on what I refer to as the “IDEO School of Thought” on design thinking versus the “Roger Martin School of Thought” on design thinking. While the presenters agreed they could see how one could point to these two different schools of thought, they thought that they actually both emerged from earlier perspectives on design thinking that came out of the Stanford engineering and design program. As the speakers said “There is no difference in the underlying philosophy of design thinking” you have coming out of IDEO or the Rotman School of Business. If there was any difference to which they could point it would be that Martin’s vision of design thinking is oriented more to the world of business. They said it “Reframes our design thinking ideas into business concepts for the folks in the boardroom.” I thought that was a pretty good way to describe the difference. I thought the speakers also provided an excellent description of how to introduce design thinking to your colleagues and implement it for a project for the first time (listen the the Q&A period at the last five minutes of the webcast).

Finally, I came across a new book on design thinking (not out quite yet) titled “Design Thinking: Understand – Improve – Apply.” Since it is possible to “look inside” at Amazon I reviewed the table of contents. It looks like a book I’ll want to at least explore. The surprise I discovered is that the book costs $137 at Amazon. I have to think about this one. If you buy a copy, let me know.

Design Thinking vs. Hybrid Thinking – Do They Differ?

In the last post I wrote about the relationship between UX and CX. Next up, what’s the relationship between design thinking and hybrid thinking? Are they one and the same? Is it just a matter of phrasing, semantics or preferences? In a post I wrote a few weeks back I mentioned an article about the Arum Engineering firm, and in that article a member of the firm makes a very clear distinction about hybrid thinking as a better way of describing Arum’s innovation process. Beyond a hint of what hybrid thinking is, and that it’s not the same as design thinking, the article says little about the difference between the two.

Then I came across an article about hybrid thinking in which the IT consulting firm, Gartner, discussed why they believe hybrid thinking will be of value in enterprise architecture. This one provides a fuller description of hybrid thinking:

Nicholas Gall, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner said, hybrid thinking is the concept of melding design, IT and business thinking to produce strategic changes. “We are seeing several leading companies combining design and other thinking methods, including more traditional approaches, to drive transformative, innovative and strategic change…By integrating design thinking, which is already very popular in business circles but is virtually unknown in IT circles, enterprise architects can focus on the right tempo of operations, enabling them to centre their outcomes on influencing people, rather than systems.”

Based on this quote, hybrid thinking is something broader than design thinking – and it has a specific, intended outcome – strategic change. I would say that design thinking could result in strategic change, but that it more broadly provides a process for approaching problems and creating thoughtful solutions, strategic or otherwise. Also, hybrid thinking appears to have more of an IT component, although it’s not exactly clear how essential that is to a hybrid thinker.

Then I came across this Fast Company design blog post on hybrid thinking as the logical progression to the “next new thing”. In his essay “Beyond Design Thinking” Gadi Amit’s discusses why design thinking may not be enough, and how hybrid thinking improves upon it by doing more than just providing a process for idea generation and innovation. According to Amit, “Having a great idea is a nice first step; making the idea a reality is better and ultimately, making an idea successful in the marketplace is the pinnacle achievement of any designer.” He goes on to say that “hybrid design” is to design what “design thinking” was to “innovation.” While I can’t say Amit provides the accepted definition and perspective on hybrid thinking, it certainly adds to the conversation.

One thing that these articles appear to want to suggest is that design thinking is nice, but that there’s more to design than just the thinking and that hybrid thinking focuses on actually creating something. That leads me to question if those talking about hybrid thinking are missing something about design thinking. Based on my reading about it (starting with Tom Kelley’s seminal book on design thinking, “The Art of Innovation”) the “thinking” in design thinking is but one stage of what I might refer to as the IDEO approach to design thinking. It really encompasses five stages: understand the user, identify the problem, deep dive, prototype, implement. I think it would be difficult to make a case that design thinking doesn’t lead to actual products, when IDEO and other design firms are contributing to the product development process as an essential part of their business. That’s what the implement stage is all about. Hybrid thinking calls to mind the Roger Martin school of thought on design thinking, and his integrative thinking model. Hybrid means combining different people, different ideas, different talents – and merging them to produce something that’s better than the any of the components.

What’s next? How about design thinking and future thinking. That, I think, will need to be a topic for a future column.

Two New Reads For Design Thinkers

I recently came across two worthwhile readings to share on the subject of design thinking.

The first is an interview with Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO. While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with one of the commentors who stated that the interview is “a great overview of design thinking”, I do believe that those exploring the field would gain something from Brown’s comments about design in general and design thinking specifically to help them shape their perspective on what design thinking is and how it could be of help to a librarian. Brown, as always, shares a few good insights on design thinking. I particularly like his perspective on design being about “big” ideas and the importance of totality:

When Brown talks about ‘big’, he isn’t talking about size, or scale, or depth. It’s the totality of experiences that he—and ‘design thinking’—refers to…it’s “much more complex thing than any single object”, Brown insists. It’s about solving the problem of distributing clean water in poor countries, coming up with more efficient ways to direct human traffic in buildings, realizing untapped channels of communication in trade. Design is huge.

That gives you a taste of what you’ll find in this interview – and it’s a fairly fast read as well. Take a look.

Then I came across this other interesting post titled “Learning How to Use Design Thinking.” It appeared at InnovationManagement, and reports on a workshop that took place in Sweden in which 70 attendees learned how to apply design thinking to specific problems. This is more of an overview, as Dan Buzzini, Design Director at IDEO, explains how design thinking is an innovation tool. Two things to look for in this summary of the workshop are the reflections of the workshop participants – interesting to read what they thought was the most valuable part of the learning experience – and the link to a good video that demonstrates how IDEO helped a bank improve a self-service experience. It’s definitely worth watching.

Finally, here’s a link to an article about the engineering firm Arup. Titled “Working on Tomorrow’s World” it describes how Arup tackles incredibly difficult challenges related to designing and building future cities and their related structures. It’s a good read about a firm that has developed a successful approach to innovation. What caught my attention was the part about “hybrid thinking”. It’s described as:

Quite often, problem-solving innovation is created by “happy” clashes between different disciplines. Arup is a firm of engineers, designers, accountants, architects, marketing professionals and graphic designers. Engineers tackle architectural problems, designers try to answer engineering questions and technologists join forces with mathematicians to enable new angles to be explored. It’s what’s known as hybrid thinking.

Is it the same as design thinking? Despite some similarities (e.g., bringing together teams of diverse individuals to “deep dive” problems) Arup sees it as being slightly different:

Young doesn’t like to call it design thinking, a label that, he says, is simply “a discussion of semantics, a bit of a distraction”, but it’s clear Arup is infected with a childlike questioning of the status quo. It’s what drives creativity right to the edges of the company.

Perhaps it is just a case of semantics. What’s important is that both approaches start with the essential step of asking the right questions:

Arup’s culture is about stepping back, he says, and asking, “Is that the right question?” It’s not a case of “What are we building?”, but “What are we building it for?” He adds: “Out of that tension something else often pops out that wasn’t considered.” Innovation starts with a question.

If you come across a good read on design thinking I hope you’ll share it with me, and I’ll share it with DBL readers.

Design Thinking – Just A Myth

Perhaps owing to its growing popularity or media attention, there is always some degree of designer community backlash over design thinking. Some would say it’s merely a business fad that’s not much different than total quality management or one-minute managing. But the attempt to do a “emperor’s new clothes” assessment of design thinking rises to a new level with an essay by Don Norman, a much respected figure in the design community. In essence, says Norman, there really is nothing new about design thinking and that we’d be better off to improve our knowledge of systems thinking. Norman says:

A powerful myth has arisen upon the land, a myth that permeates business, academia, and government. It is pervasive and persuasive. But although it is relatively harmless, it is false. The myth? That designers possess some mystical, creative thought process that places them above all others in their skills at creative, groundbreaking thought. This myth is nonsense, but like all myths, it has a certain ring of plausibility although lacking any evidence.

So why exactly is Norman trying to expose design thinking as little more than a manufactured effort to make the designer’s thinking process something unique and mystical? I suppose that on one level the hype surrounding design thinking annoys him because it does garner quite a large amount of attention. But I think he is more concerned that many of us are buying into a concept that, in his opinion, is really nothing new. To his way of thinking, designers have always been creative types. To suggest that they suddenly have some mystical power that allows them to “think” differently than everyone else, is rather silly, claims Norman. He points out that lots of professions require and demonstrate the work of highly creative people – none of whom we would technically identify as designers. Design thinkers and the firms they work for hold no monopoly on creative work. Does Norman think we should stop using the term design thinking? No – not yet. Although he thinks it is a myth, he says it is a useful one because “It will help spread the word that designers can add value to almost any problem, from healthcare to pollution, business strategy and company organization. When this transformation takes place, the term can be put away to die a natural death.”

While I see Norman’s point about design thinking, I thought he was overlooking the ways in which it is informative and inspirational to those of us in non-design professions. Norman claims there’s nothing of great substance in design thinking, but I would argue that’s not the case for me. I find the literature valuable for helping me to think differently about many things. I wanted to share this perspective and did so in the comments section. Here is what I wrote:

Thanks for your thoughtful essay on design thinking. As a non-designer and a proponent of the value of design thinking, I think there is value in challenging the ideas and forcing us to think about this thing we call design thinking. I first discovered the core ideas of design – and the ways in which it is applicable to all types of design fields, as the library director at Philadelphia University. At that institution about 50% of the curriculum focuses on design fields. I never did hear any of the faculty (many practitioners) use the term “design thinking”. I came to it more though my own studies in our instructional design program. Myth or not, I find that design thinking, and what I would refer to as the IDEO method, does provide my colleagues – who rarely think about design – and are so embedded in their daily routines that they are as inside as an insider can be -with some great ideas for how to think differently. Sharing the IDEO method provides a helpful framework for giving them a set of tools for breaking out of the insider role. So for those who are non-designers, design thinking is useful.

The many comments are worth taking a look at. I like the one that said something along the lines of “Who cares if design thinking is a myth. If helps me to achieve my goals and helps others to do so that’s what matters most.” I would agree.

The “Thinking” In Design Thinking

Here’s is some more good reading that helps librarians to better grasp what design thinking really means – although there’s one aspect of this post with which I’d quibble. What I like about it though is that it does a good job of pointing out that the “thinking” in design thinking really refers to a process designers use to solve problems – or is that FIND problems.

Edwin Gardner, of the blog Creating Knowledge Through Practice, wrote an essay titled “Thinking through Design Thinking” in which he takes issue with some of the concepts of design thinking as they are promoted by the folks at IDEO and Bruce Nussbaum of BusinessWeek. Although the essay was written in 2009 I discovered it only more recently here. Gardner first takes on design thinking as a process for problem solving (although I’ve heard design thinkers refer to themselves as problem finders, not problem solvers) and innovation. I have some problems with Gardner’s suggestion that design thinking is coupled with technology solutions for innovation, that it is “technocratic”. But many design-based innovations could have little to do with technology, and may focus instead on human-based change.

Where things get interesting is with Gardner’s contention that:

the real problem with design thinking is that [it] mostly deals with methodology, process, ‘how-to,’ it doesn’t deal with how design thinking actually works. Usually cases are brought forward of how a typical design approach has been successful in tackling a problem, but from this we don’t learn how thoughts unfold in the design process, how thinking unfolds. Thus design thinking currently deals with describing behavior, symptoms, the consequence of thoughts but not what design thinking consists of itself.

I agree that there is little about design thinking that actually explains what the “thinking” is, but should we expect it to? We can certainly learn from designers how they approach their work, identify problems, obtain solutions, etc., but does Gardner expect us to go beyond that, to somehow peer into their minds. I think that’s why I like what Warren Berger brings to this issue when he says that one of his main goals is “understanding how designers think and what the rest of us can learn from that”. I understand Gardner’s point, and it is well taken. I certainly would like a more algorithmic explanation of the “thinking” part of design thinking – and I’d like someone to just tell me how and what to do – but I hardly expect that to happen. I do expect that librarians will better understand the thinking part of design thinking when we try to authentically integrate the processes into our own practice. We can learn more about how designers think based on what we see them do and what they share with us about their work – as the folks at IDEO do – even if we can’t look inside their minds.

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.

Interactions Special Issue on Design Thinking

If you have yet to discover interactions magazine (yes – small “i”), then the current issue is must reading for you – and I think you’ll become a regular subscriber. Describing itself as a magazine about “experiences, people and technology”, interactions is good regular reading for anyone interested in learning more about the design professions. The current issue for March/April 2010 (v.17 n.) is a special issue that features several articles about design thinking.

In prefacing issue, co-editors Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko write:

Popular discussion of “design thinking” has reached a point of frenzy. Unfortunately, there is often little depth to the discussion, and for many, the topic remains elusive and vague. While each issue of interactions has included articles about or reflecting the application of design thinking, this issue addresses the topic a bit more directly.

The goal of the issue is to offer greater in depth discussion about design thinking to engage us in thinking about what it is and what it can offer.

Articles in this issue cover topics such as what it means to have design literacy, improving relationships between design teams and business teams, and several other articles focus on interaction design and design research. The issue features several well recognized thought leaders in design, such as Roger Martin and Don Norman. My favorite article is the issue is titled “Design Thinking in Stereo” and it does a compare and contrast number on the design thinking philosophies of Roger Martin and Tim Brown, using information found in the newest books authored by these two prominent design thinkers. I find the two discuss similar ideas using different approaches and examples. For example, Brown describes design thinking as the three “I’s”, Ideate, Inspire and Implement. Martin uses his “knowledge funnel” (mystery, heuristic, algorithm) to explain the business cycle and how it can lead to exploitation and failure, and how design thinkers can better achieve an “explore and exploit” cycle. Since I enjoy reading the works of both, this was a worthwhile article.

I think you’ll find the articles about design and design thinking to be worth your time. If an inspiration hits you while reading any of the articles, please share it here.