Tag Archives: design_thinking

Design Thinking Books Make Their Mark

Here at DBL we’ve consistently tried to share those articles and books that we find particularly useful in helping us to better understand the concepts and practice of design thinking and user experience. I wanted to share an article that may save you some time since it provides good overviews to three different design and design thinking books, one of which I wrote about here recently. You may be able to save time by reading this article rather than the books. But I especially hope that reading the article will inspire you to want to read these books.

In the March + April 2008 issue of Interactions Alex Wright contributes the article “Doing Business by Design.” [Note: you need to click on the “contents” link to scroll down to the link to this article] Wright astutely observes that the business book publishers are beginning to realize books that offer a design perspective will be of interest to the mass market. He writes:

The business press has published a raft of articles testifying to the rise of so-called design thinking among corporate managers. So it should come as no surprise that designers are finally starting to break out of their professional literary ghetto to write books targeted to businesspeople.

So Wright offers an overview, with comments, about each of three different design-oriented business books. They are Subject to Change, The Designful Company and Do You Matter. He finds some things to like and dislike about each; the reviews are fair. I think he preferred The Designful Company.

Wright concludes that :

Ultimately, all three of these books share a purpose: trying to influence business readers to shift their focus from one-off-product development to a more integrated approach to designing the customer experience. The books also share a flaw; succumbing to the idealistic pitch mentality that is, alas, the consultant’s stock in trade.

I am also eager to get my hands on another new book by Nathan Shedroff titled Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable. Shedroff is a co-author of the book Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences which is a must read for those interested in user experience design. You can read an interview that Core 77 does with Shedroff in which this new book is discussed.

Using Design Thinking At Your Library

When speaking about design thinking at a library conference or in a webcast one question will routinely be raised: “How are librarians actually putting design thinking to use?”. It’s a good question and one that I can answer with a few examples. I often try to encourage participants in the discussion to think of ways they might already be using design thinking or some part of that process without realizing it. I provide examples of how I’m using it in my work. But having even more examples would be better, and in time I think there will be as librarians begin sharing their applications of design thinking in the literature. I recently came across an example of that exact thing.

In the latest issue of the journal Medical Reference Services Quarterly I discovered an article titled “Single Service Point: It’s All in the Design” by Pamela S. Bradigan and Ruey L. Rodman, of the John A. Prior Health Sciences Library at Ohio State University. It appears in the Winter 2008 issue (v. 27) on pages 367-378. It’s not freely online but your library may have a subscription via the Haworth Jounals online collection. Here’s the abstract from the article:

‘‘Design thinking’’ principles from a leading design firm, IDEO, were key elements in the planning process for a one-desk service model, the ASK Desk, at the John A. Prior Health Sciences Library. The library administration and staff employed the methodology to enhance customer experiences, meet technology challenges, and compete in a changing education environment. The most recent renovations demonstrate how the principles were applied. The concept of ‘‘continuous design thinking’’ is important in the library’s dailyoperations to serve customers most effectively.

Where this article can be most helpful to other librarians wanting to know how they could use design thinking is the well laid out discussion of how the five steps of the IDEO design thinking process were applied in the merger of their two service points into one. They elaborate how they put into practice the ideas of understand, observe, visualize, evaluate/refine and implement. All of these phases are fully discussed in the book The Art of Innovation. As a result I think it becomes easier to grasp how this process can help a library to identify problems and then develop appropriate solutions. Bradigan and Rodman used design thinking to first determine in what ways their patrons needed a better, more streamlined service desk. Their solutions were based on understanding and observing their library users.

While it’s likely that this journal doesn’t get read much beyond the medical librarian community, I’m hoping it will reach a broader audience. I am encouraged that it will because the Journal of Academic Librarianship included this article in its “Guide to the Professional Literature” in the January 2009 issue. That’s how I discovered it, and I hope more librarians will as well.

Creating The Designful Library

Marty Neumeier is the President of Neutron LLC and also author of the recently published book The Designful Company: How to build a Culture of Nonstop Innovation. I just finished reading the book and I find it is helping me to sharpen my understanding of how an organization could better integrate design thinking into its practices. The book can be read quickly and it contains interesting graphics. But my intention is not to deliver a review. Rather I wanted to point you to an interview that Adaptive Path conducted with Neumeier. I hope you will take the time to read the book, but if you are too busy to get to it now this interview may give you a feel for Neumeier’s message.

I said the book was a quick read but I found myself taking quite a bit of time to get through it. That’s not because it was boring or difficult to understand. Rather Neumeier offers many different thought provoking ideas, and I found myself taking time to re-read these passages and write notes about them as a way of reflecting and better internalizing them. It’s that kind of book. Let me give you an example.

On pages 80 and 81 Neumeier writes about “designing in depth”. What does that mean? If you choose to read this book keep in mind that Newmeier doesn’t always try to explain his concepts in great detail. He tends to lay out his ideas in broader terms and supplements them with examples and diagrams that cross between multiple disciplines. On one page he may share a piece of Steve Job’s wisdom and on the next he draws an example from an ancient philosopher. I like this because it forces me to build my own interpretation and understanding of the design principles.

To explain design in depth Neumeier refers back to a company called Lord Chamberlain’s Men. You might recall they produced the plays of a fellow named William Shakespeare. Shakespeare applied the principle of deep design in his works. He gave the audience a true theatre experience and reached them across multiple levels. The plays offered both logic and emotion, the physical and the spiritual, and the serious and the humorous. The experience that Shakespeare delivered worked then as it still does today. Neumeier then follows this up by providing a chart labled deep design. I think this does a great job of connecting the importance of first developing core values, and how that builds a loyal community of users that connect with the organization’s brand and experience (chart provided with permission of M. Neumeier and Neutron LLC).

From the book "The Designful Company"
From the book "The Designful Company"
I liked this chart so much that I shared it with my colleagues. We are working together to develop a new strategic plan for our library. For me it does a great job of effectively communicating the importance of first creating a library that has a strong core which then extends out to a clearly articulated identity and culture with well-regarded products with the right brand. If we can get this right we can then begin to move our user community beyond their surface perceptions of our library and what we do (e.g., we are only about books, doing research is painful, there is no one who can help you, etc.). I think this chart says more than my words can about the value you may derive from Neumeier’s thoughts about design and how it can help improve our organizations. I hope librarians will give it a read, and think more deeply about creating a designful library.

IDEO Expands Its Sphere Of Influence

He may not be as well known as IDEO CEO Tim Brown, but If any one person truly represents what IDEO is about that might be David Kelley, one of the principal leaders of the world famous design firm. You might know Kelley from The Deep Dive or his TED talk. He is an enthusiastic believer in the power of design thinking to transform people, products and organizations. Fast Company profiled Kelley in a January, 2009 issue. If you haven’t seen The Deep Dive video you can get a sense of what some of the themes are in this interview. It is mostly about Kelley’s recent battle with cancer, but I found the article enjoyable because it gave me some new insights into the IDEO organization and its origins. I learned that it was Kelley, in a meeting with Tim Brown, who suggested that IDEO should stop calling what IDEO does design and instead start calling it design thinking. That meant shifting their paradigm from “designing a new chair or car” to being “expert at a methodology”.

Kelley points out that what makes IDEO different from traditional management consulting firms is their design thinking process – understanding, observation, brainstorming, prototyping. He recalls the story of a client who just wanted IDEO to skip right to the brainstorming. But Kelley maintains that the big ideas – where the real value of what IDEO does – is in the first two parts of the process. If you want to work with IDEO you need to go through the entire process with them. As Kelley tells his design students:

You’re sitting here today because we moved from thinking of ourselves as designers to thinking of ourselves as design thinkers. What we, as design thinkers, have, is this creative confidence that, when given a difficult problem, we have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before

The article contains examples that demonstrate how IDEO has moved from a firm that uses design thinking to improve products and services, to one that is truly having an influence on the future of business. This article profiles major companies such as Procter & Gamble and Kaiser Permanente that have hired IDEO to help them transform into design thinking organizations. IDEO’s methods are also being taught at major design and MBA programs around the world, such as the Stanford Design School and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. In this way IDEO is expanding its sphere of influence far beyond their Palo Alto headquarters. Will IDEO’s sphere of influence expand all the way to libraries? I would certainly hope so. But Kelley points out that “design thinging represents a serious challenge to the status quo at traditional companies”. The decision thinking process, I believe, can make libraries better – but first we need to be open to its possibilities.

Quotes Worthy Of A Mention

Imagining The Future Through Design Thinking

Arnold Wasserman, runs The Idea Factory in Singapore. I came across this interesting quote from Wasserman, and wanted to share it with you:

Central to design thinking is designers’ unique ability to bring imagined futures to life in the here and now. Most people think about the future as a linear projection of the present. Designers think differently. We inquire deeply into peoples’ lives today…then we take an imaginative leap into normative (desired) futures and then integrate backwards into what has to happen starting Monday morning to bring those futures into being. We create provocations—depictions, simulations, visual narratives and immersive experiences of future worlds. We progressively iterate technological and social prototypes. We invent day-in-the-life scenarios of specific people in those worlds engaged moment-by-moment in life, work, play, learning and mobility. In addition, designers have an ability (almost an obdession) to take massive of undifferentiated information and make knowledge structures out of it—assembly it into visual models and frameworks that give it clarity and meaning and make it usable for decision making.

[Source: NussbaumOnDesign]
We often think of design thinking as a process for solving our most immediate problem, so I found Wasserman’s quote of interest because he sees it as a process that will also allow us to imagine the future as well.

Creativity Doesn’t Come Easy

From John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design and author of “The Laws of Simplicity”:

Photo and music editing software can make creativity seem easy. But I’m concerned about the way we assess creativity these days. Look at corporations: when they want to get “creative,” they bring in the beanbag chairs and make people play games and have “brainstorming sessions.” But the truth is, creativity doesn’t come easy. It comes hard. It demands discipline and knowledge and application.”

Hmm. I wonder how David Kelley of IDEA would respond to that statement?

Design Starts With the Experience

From Robert Brunner, an award-winning designer and author of “Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company”:

If you’re creating a product or service, everything must work from the customer experience. Great companies don’t think in terms of “moving products” – they think in terms of moving people. Design is the way you connect, and therefore should drive development. I believe that design is about capturing and communicating ideas, and doing it in a way that draws people in.

By the way, the quotes from Maeda and Brunner come from a Samsung advertisement I found in Time magazine. The ad focused on “Designs on the Future”. Another sign perhaps of the growing appreciation of design thinking in popular culture.

Just Hire Steve Jobs

Want to design a better library? Looking for an individual to help your library achieve new levels of creativity? Are you in need of an employee who can help your library innovate like Apple? The answer to all these questions has a single simple answer. Hire Steve Jobs. Sorry if you thought I had a better answer to those questions. But what if you can’t hire Steve Jobs. Then hire someone who works closely with him.

This sounds pretty silly because no one is going to hire Steve Jobs. For one thing he has a pretty good job right now. For another, you probably couldn’t afford him. I just bring this up because I’ve now recently twice encountered this exact recommendation in different readings, of course, in a facetious way. In the book Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain World by designers from Adaptive Path the authors write:

There are a number of ways to encourage and maintain an experiential focus throughout your development process. One way is to hire Steve Jobs as your CEO. Apple’s success in delivering satisfying experiences stems directly from Jobs’ maniacal focus on customers’ interactions with products. As CEO, he ensures that Apple delivers only the best designs.

In an article titled “Design: A Better Path to Innovation” (subscription to Interactions needed) author Nathan Shedroff, experience designer, writes:

I got a call from an editor of one of the biggest business magazines in the U.S. What he said was “We’re planning on writing a book about how business can innovate like Apple does, and I was told to talk to you about it.” My answer stumped him. “You can’t write that book”. I had to explain that, no, the book wasn’t writeable. “It would consist of one sentence: Hire Steve Jobs.” I went on to explain their type of design, usually disastrous for most companies, works only when you have a leader with ultimate authority who also happens to have a keen sense of design and amazingly accurate understanding of what customers need and want.

The point of both sources is that many businesspeople want someone who can run their organization or company like Apple, and they are looking for the secrets that make Apple what it is – one of the most innovative and forward-design thinking companies on the planet. But Shedroff makes the point that Apple, right now, has a unique perspective that is is exceedingly difficult to achieve without Jobs. As an example he gives Microsoft. They do all the right design thinking things such as ethnographic research, rapid prototyping, user testings, etc. Yet many of their products yield a bad user experience. Shedroff goes on in his article to explain how design can lead to better innovation and meaningful user experiences.

So when you realize it’s not possible to hire Steve Jobs you may want to borrow your strategy from Sony. A recent BusinessWeek article detailed how Sony is working to catch up to Apple. The CEO of Sony couldn’t hire Jobs, but he did hire a top lieutentant of Steve Jobs. But even that move hasn’t had the expected payoff just yet. So what can libraries take away from this? Well, for one thing, if you can’t hire Steven Jobs don’t worry. You can still use design thinking to develop better processes in your library that will lead to more satisfying experiences for your users. But strong leadership, as Jobs demonstrates, is at the core of innovation and risk taking. It just may be the next best thing to hiring Steve Jobs.

Marketers Consider The Value Of Design Thinking

If you are just getting interested in design thinking – and welcome to Designing Better Libraries if you are new here as well – a recent BrandWeek article could be a good read for getting up to speed on some of the basic principles behind design thinking. Titled “Thinking by Design” this article from a November 2008 issue provides a good overview, quoting design thinking gurus such as Tim Brown and Roger Martin. But the overall goal of the article is to consider whether design thinking can be of help to marketing professionals. While firms such as Procter & Gamble and Bank of America are getting good results not everyone is so sure the design thinking is anything particularly new for marketers.

The approach of the article is to discuss design thinking in three distinct phases of the process: observation, ideation and implementation. Observation is another way of describing the empathic and ethnological part of process – trying to better know the users, their needs and their challenges. In the ideation phase team members analyze what was learned in the observation phase and begin to develop prototypes that might serve as possible solutions to observed problems. Finally, in the implementation phase the prototypes shift into actual products. But what do marketers think of all this?

For some design thinking is not a particularly new concept or practice. One ad agency pro described it as “old ideas packaged with new phrases.” Those who defend design thinking remind skeptics that it’s not a panacea, but merely a process for creating positive change. It’s always good, I think, to have colleagues question the value of new ideas such as design thinking. Doing so can help to strenthen my own understanding of it and my ability to more clearly articulate to others the theory and practice of design thinking.

Instead Of Picking Model A Or Model B Create Model C

To gain some additional perspectives on design thinking take a look at this video interview with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto. In the video Rotman answers questions about integrative thinking, which is a term Martin uses to describe design thinking. I’ve written about Martin before, especially in wanting to share ideas about his “opposable mind”, and how it is a way of using design thinking to identify new solutions when existing models may not be appropriate for a given situation. Martin talks more about this in the video, which only runs about five minutes.

One of the reasons I seek to further explore the development of the opposable mind is because the library profession presents a good number of complexities and situations for which standard models and solutions are ineffective. One of the most challenging elements of my job is trying to develop good solutions when a simple option A or B won’t work. At those times I think back to Martin and his stories about thinkers who were able to see new solutions that others didn’t see. And being a design thinker doesn’t mean being a lone creative genius who gets hit with lightning bolts of great ideas. Coming up with Model C requires involving one’s colleagues and exploring multiple dimensions of a problem situation.

In the last few months I’ve come across a number of different reports, blog posts, e-mail news items and discussion board entries that all, in one way or another, suggest the demise of libraries. Most will conclude with something along the lines of “libraries have got to change the way they do business or they won’t be around long” but without saying much about what to do. I think similar concerns about turmoil in the world of business lead Martin to develop and share his approach called integrative thinking, and to make design thinking a core educational value for MBA students at the Rotman School. Librarians who will successfully lead their organizations through these challenging times may well be the ones who use integrative thinking to develop Model C.

Additional video to watch: A few months back I shared news about an interesting article in a magazine called Seed. Written by Paolo Antonelli, this article described the idea of the elastic mind. Those with elastic minds are moving past adaptability. Turns out Antonelli spoke about the elastic mind at TED and they have made the video available on their site. She talks more about the interaction of scientists and research scientists.

Design Thinking Goes Mainstream

If a high profile article in the New York Times is a sign of mainstream acceptance of an idea, than design thinking just went mainstream. In an article titled “Design is More Than Packaging” author Janet Rae-Dupree writes:

Properly used, design thinking can weave together elements of demographics, research, environmental factors, psychology, anthropology and sociology to generate novel solutions to some of the most puzzling problems in business.

Yes, the article does appear in the business section and the tone of the article is that design thinking offers businesses a better process for decision making and achieving creative solutions. I suppose that it would be asking too much for an article that portrays design thinking in much broader terms.

Overall I think the article does a reasonably good job of communicating what design thinking is – not always an easy task. Good examples always help but I was disappointed by the one featuring Saturn and the refurbishment of their showrooms. I understand the author was trying to point out how the design process emphasized creating an environment that was far more interactive for the buyer, but it comes off sounding a bit too much like the big change was in the design of the showroom interior. The design process was underplayed. One thing that I did like was what Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO has to say:

“Design thinking is inherently about creating new choices, about divergence,” says Tim Brown, the chief executive and president of the design consulting firm IDEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif. “Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”

So despite some ups and downs I think it’s great that the New York Times gave attention to design thinking. Now maybe next time they’ll want to explore how design thinking can help us make our libraries better.

Design Thinking Blog Started By Tim Brown

You know I’m always on the lookout for new and valued sources for reading and learning more about design thinking. Well a good one appeared this week, a new blog by one of the gurus of design thinking. It looks good and should continue to be a useful resource for learning about design thinking.

Tim Brown is the CEO of IDEO and I’ve mentioned his work before or quoted him. Few individuals are as closely associated with the discipline of design thinking as is Brown. Now Brown will be sharing his thoughts in a blog. His blog is simply called Design Thinking. Turns out Brown is writing a book based on his well received June 2008 Harvard Business Review article on design thinking. In his message about the blog he refers to the book and says he will be sharing his ideas and gathering information from readers’ comments. I have to say that the comments I’ve read are pretty good. In fact the comments from just one post lead me to three different resources related to design thinking that were totally new to me. So clearly there are lots of folks out there interested in design thinking who have resources and ideas to share. I expect that Brown’s blog will be a focal point for the design thinking community.

Perhaps of less importance, but possibly of interest to those who would like more detail on the inner workings of design at IDEO, I came across another blog called IDEO Labs that takes you inside the process that the IDEO designers go through as they work on projects. It appears that it might appeal to those with more of a technical interest in IDEO’s prototyping process, but it could also be a good way to learn more about the various stages of the design thinking process. I’ll check it out from time to time.