Tag Archives: design_thinking

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.

How Design Thinking Could Improve LIS Education

As a library practitioner it’s rare to have occasions to speak with LIS faculty about the education of our future library colleagues. So I considered myself fortunate to be in that position recently when I attended the 15th anniversary celebration for the Internet Public Library (which I wrote about here), and a meeting of the re-accreditation advisory board for Drexel University’s iSchool, of which I am a member. Over the course of two days there were multiple conversations about what today’s LIS students need to learn in order to be well prepared for tomorrow’s challenging library environment.

LIS students still need to gain proficiency with important skills, such as the organization of material, reference work, subject specialization and digital development. No one argues that. But where the need seems more acute, and where there is less certainty about how to teach, is with the less tangible skills sets such as listening and observing, problem analysis or critical thinking. That’s where much of the conversation focused; what could practitioners share to help educators design a better curriculum for LIS students. That’s when it occurred to me. We should be talking about integrating design thinking into the LIS curriculum.

What would it mean to do that? Taking some cues from two advocates for integrating design thinking into the business school curriculum, let me synthesize some ideas from David Kelley (watch short video), a co-founder of IDEO, and Roger Martin. Dean the Rotman Business School. LIS education infused with design thinking principles would teach students to be more intuitive and creative and less analytical – aiming for more of a balance. Saying you want to teach students to be design thinkers means helping them to internalize a methodology that focuses on making innovation a more routine part of work. The application of the design thinking method incorporates many of those difficult-to-teach soft skills.

For example, the first stage of the design thinking method is empathic design – learning to put yourself in the place of the user. Let’s say that we currently educate students to ask reference interview questions aimed at narrowing the possibilities so that the librarian can impose a solution on the user. That may lead to giving the user an inappropriate or incomplete solution if we fail to adequately capture the true need of the user. Now imagine we were to educate LIS students to first think about the user and what he or she is trying to accomplish and the factors driving them to ask the question. The student would learn to understand the need for help from that user’s unique perspective. A design thinking approach to providing reference service might also encourage the use of more social techniques, from seeking greater input from colleagues to using networks to find the best solutions. Too often LIS students see reference as a “lone genius” activity when in fact the best results can emerge from an enlightened team of diverse experts.

Design thinkers are problem finders. Having a design thinking mentality in any library setting could improve the operation of the organization. Instead of focusing too quickly on solutions, a new generation of librarians would learn the value of thoughtfulness and patience in confronting complex problems. LIS programs teach skills for use in building solutions, but are they teaching a thought process that guides the application of the skills in different situations? A design thinking influenced curriculum could better prepare students to make good decisions in complicated or complex situations.

So how might LIS educators create a design thinking curriculum? There are few possibilities for getting started:

* Begin by having faculty read core materials about design thinking, and then exchange ideas about how the design thinking methodology could be integrated throughout the curriculum.

* Invite Roger Martin to speak at the next ALISE conference. LIS educators can learn how he is tranforming business education to include more balance between analytical left brain thinking and intuitive right brain thinking.

* Work with a design firm to create a prototype of a design thinking curriculum. Firms such as IDEO that traditionally design products now consult with organizations to help them transition to a design thinking organization.

* Involve current students and alumni in the exploration of a design thinking curriculum. Have the groups work together to explore how design thinking could improve the LIS learning experience for students and provide benefits to the employers who will hire them.

* Invite students from design education programs such as the d. school at Stanford University or the IIT Institute of Design to visit LIS programs to share perspectives on what makes their the learning process and the curriculum at their institution unique.

I would look forward to a future in which LIS graduates emerge from their programs as design thinkers (not to mention UX advocates). It would lead to a more innovative profession with a common tool for approaching the challenges of librarianship. As David Kelley puts it in the video, design thinking compliments how you normally think and work, but equips you with a methodology for a consistent approach to change and innovation. I believe that the first LIS program that declares itself the “design thinking iSchool” is going to set the standard for the future of library education. Is there a forward thinking LIS program that is ready to give this a try?

BTW, integrating design thinking into learning at all levels, including LIS programs, may be the wave of the future. Here’s an article that discusses integrating design education into K-12 schools.

The Design Of Business – And Concerns About “Design Thinking”

Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto, has just authored a new book titled The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage , and I was looking forward to reading it. BusinessWeek has a short article by Martin that shares some ideas from the book, and now I am really looking forward to reading it. In this article Martin talks about two different business models that are in conflict, the analytical (left brain) model and the intuitive (right brain) model. Since neither may ultimately work out, Martin suggests bringing them together in a new model:

The most successful businesses in the years to come will balance analytical mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay that I call design thinking. Design thinking is the form of thought that enables forward movement of knowledge, and the firms that master it will gain a nearly inexhaustible, long-term business advantage.

It seems to carry forward the ideas Martin discussed in The Opposable Mind. I’ll be glad to read more about this. You can also view a video interview that BusinessWeek conducted with Martin.

And while Martin is promoting his book on design thinking, others are questioning the value of the idea – or at least calling it design thinking. Perter Merholz of Adaptive Path has written a column titled “Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You ” in which he advocates for rethinking the use of “design thinking” as a strategy business can turn to when all else is failing. He writes (in a nicely sarcastic tone):

Design thinking is trotted out as a salve for businesses who need help with innovation. The idea is that the left-brained, MBA-trained, spreadsheet-driven crowd has squeezed all the value they can out of their methods. To fix things, all you need to do is apply some right-brained turtleneck-wearing “creatives,” “ideating” tons of concepts and creating new opportunities for value out of whole cloth.

Merholz finds “design thinking” to be too limiting. It’s not just about design, he says, but about the many different disciplines that are a part of what designers do – and that includes business. He writes, “The supposed dichotomy between “business thinking” and “design thinking” is foolish.”

I think I get what bugs Merholz about design thinking. It’s not just a designer’s backlash over non-designers taking ownership of what designers do without having the required skill set. He seems genuinely concerned that business is taking ownership of a flawed concept, one that may be seen as an end in and of itself – not a part of other strategies that involve many different types of skill sets. The comments to the column are as important to read as the post itself. Here is what I added to the comments:

As a librarian I found it interesting that you chose to mention librarians in your post and that we don’t have anything we refer to as “library thinking”. However, many librarians only think like librarians when it comes to developing solutions to problems. Too often that means assuming you know – because you are a librarian – that you understand users and know what they need. There is little investment in spending time to really identify the problem. I have found design thinking a useful model process for learning how designers approach problems and develop solutions. One of the most important things I’ve learned from watching the “Deep Dive” video is that great solutions emerge from interdisciplinary teams, and that is a real challenge in libraries because we all tend to think the same way – but we also all have different disciplinary backgrounds – but we may fail to use those approaches when we have a problem. So I have found it helpful to share the idea of design thinking with my library colleagues – not as an end in itself – but as a means to some other end – be it understanding a problem and developing an appropriate solution or working towards a better library experience for the end user.

I would hate to see the community that is interested in design thinking get into feud over what it is, who can practice it, when it’s accurate to use it or not, or whatever sort of issues might come up. As one commenter pointed out, it’s still a concept in development. I look forward to future opportunities to learn more about design thinking and how we can apply it in our libraries – as opposed to whatever we do now – which I guess you’d call “library thinking.”

Tim Brown On Change

Looks like Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, is starting to discuss his new book which is due out shortly. Change by Design is a book about how design thinking can be used to transform organizations and inspire innovation.

Brown recently posted a brief video in which he shares some thoughts about how design thinking can lead to better organizational innovation.

Tim Brown on Change By Design from IDEO on Vimeo.

I like his introduction about how the mind map offers an alternate structure to his book, and how not every book needs a traditional table of contents. I can’t quite say what the book has to offer but I will be reading it. I’m always looking to learn more about design thinking – and I have a feeling Brown’s new book will help me to achieve that goal.

In addition to this video, the latest issue of BusinessWeek features a brief excerpt from Change by Design. It also points to three other new books coming out (one by Roger Martin) that discuss design thinking.

Speaking of learning more about design thinking I recently learned about a blog called The Design Thinking Blog – you can’t get much more specific about design thinking than that. This is where I found the link to Tim Brown’s video. I recommend you follow the blog if you’d like to be learning more about design thinking.

Journal Publishes Special Issue On Design Innovation

Several good articles about the intersection of design and innovation are found in the 2009 (V. 30, N.3) issue of the Journal of Business Strategy. It is not freely available on the Internet, but many academic libraries subscribe to Emerald online journals and this issue is available there. I wanted to mention two article in particular that I’m reading because they pertain to design thinking (well more than a few in this issue are but these two are of greatest interest to me – you may find others of value). The first is titled “Beyond good: great innovations through design” by Steven Sato and the other one is “Innovation is good, fitness is better” by James Hackett.

I’m doing some preparation for a talk about the value of taking an entrepreneurial approach to librarianship. Invariably, if you delve into entrepreneurism the topic of innovation enters the conversation. Both of these articles offer some good insights into how design thinking can provide a framework for increasing or stimulating organizational innovation. Hackett is particularly strong on the connection between design thinking and the evolution of an organization. He believes that only the fittest organizations are the ones that survive industry turmoil. Using his own experience as the CEO of Steelcase, an office furniture company, Hackett describes how design thinking was used to keep moving to the next level of organizational fitness. I found it most interesting that he says he first learned about design thinking 20 years ago at the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design; design thinking is hardly as new an approach as I once thought. For Hackett the most critical aspect of achieving fitness is critical thinking. He provides a path for moving from thinking to implementation in the article.

Sato’s article is the more dense of the two, but he attempts to create a closer relationship between design thinking and innovation, differentiation and simplification. Sato defines design thinking as “a systematic approach that optimizes value to customers with benefits to the company”. He sees the main function of design thinking as providing the balance in deciding what to produce that customers will use with the most effective way of making and offering that new product or service. Sato’s concepts may be best understood by examining figure 4 in his article. It summarizes how design thinking can be applied to innovation, differentiation and simplification. Most of these examples are based on work done at Hewlitt-Packard. As an example of innovation we learn how HP used a design thinking process to automate micro-finance transactions. I found Sato’s article provided a rather difference perspective on design thinking, one I hope to put to use soon.

I hope you’ll have an opportunity to read these two articles. While this special issue of Journal of Business Strategy has several more that focus on design thinking, I’d recommend these two if you have limited reading time. But if you have more time, don’t stop there. Check out some of the other articles as well.