Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex (wicked) problems, and find desirable solutions for clients (the end user). A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons:
- incomplete or contradictory knowledge
- the number of people and opinions involved
- the large economic burden,
- and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems
Wicked problems are not about how difficult it is, but rather about the nature of the problem. Solving these problems require:
- continuous defining of the problem,
- in depth research
- and numerous attempts at iteration.
Design thinking draws upon:
- and systemic reasoning,
to explore possibilities of what could be and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).
An important component of design thinking is empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Aligned with this is the practice of human-centered design (HCD). A creative approach to problem solving – a process that starts with the people (the end user) you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs (the end user). Human-centered design (HCD) involves the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.
Design thinking utilizes elements from the designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what future customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.
According to Tim Brown (and I quote) “Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way”. Design Thinking and the resulting innovation requires an overlap of desirability, feasibility and viability. What does the end user want / need, how viable is it from a business perspective and then is it feasible from a technical standpoint.
Design thinking is an internationally recognised method for solving problems. There are numerous models of problem-solving in use with many being variations of the internationally recognised IDEO and Stanford d.schooldesign thinking processes.
Figure 1. Stanford d.school design thinking model
Tim Brown, the most cited author on design thinking is attributed with using the term ‘design thinking’ in 2003. Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to business people and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.
Figure 2. IDEO Design Thinking Model
An industrial designer by training, Tim has earned numerous design awards and has exhibited work at the Axis Gallery in Tokyo, the Design Museum in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He takes special interest in the convergence of technology and the arts, as well as the ways in which design can be used to promote the well-being of people living in emerging economies.
Figure 3. Tim Brown, IDEO
In August 2015, Tim Brown was interviewed by the Harvard Business Review wherein he reflected on a previous article he had written for the same publication in 2008, noting that design thinking had indeed progressed a long way since then. The article questioned whether design thinking was still relevant and continued to offer a competitive advantage in terms of innovation.
During the 2015 interview, Tim Brown remarked that design thinking was a methodology in constant pursuit of improvement and that to many practitioners’, like himself, reinvention may seem like the smart way forward. Brown commented that for design thinking to be properly implemented and provide sustained competitive advantage it was necessary to master the art of design thinking (Brown, 2015). Brown is supported in his observation that design thinking should not be undertaken lightly but requires mastering as it is considered a complex process (L. Leifer, Meinel, & Plattner, 2012a, p. 11). Design thinking is a problem-solving process that has traditionally been employed by designers. Designers have generally viewed design thinking as an effective tool within their industry Interestingly this process has now been taken up by broader organizations outside of design (non-designers) in their pursuit of innovation, competitive advantage and solving larger more complex issues. The design thinking process is generally defined as being made up of five steps. These are empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Recently organizations have supported this method. However more recently some organizations have chosen to move away from design thinking. Research has already been conducted in this area identifying the movement away from design thinking. However, research only explains the phenomenon of adoption and rejection of design thinking as a complete entity and does not consider each individual step on its own merits.
Moving forward it is important that we consider the origin and progress undergone by design thinking as a problem-solving methodology. From having initially being employed by designers only this methodology has recently been embraced by broader organizations. This progression has occurred over several decades with organizations steadily embracing the process more. Knowledge of the past allows for open and clearer discussion of the future. Clarity on the past will allow for more informed decisions when considering the barriers of the present and inventions of the future.
Looking back, Thomas Edisoninvented the light bulb and then designed an entire industry around it. Edison saw the bigger picture and could conceptualise the future marketplace. Through observation Edison understood the end user and applied human centred designwhen applying design. This is an early example of what we now refer to as design thinking. Design thinking, having its origin in the activist movement, then progressing to design activism and currently presenting itself in the contemporary form of design thinking; was originally confined to what is termed ‘creative’ people who were familiar with the concept. Design thinking is today being used by wider society. As with any tool or process it requires continuous review, refinement and updating to stay current and effective. The foundations of design thinking were established immediately after World War II (WWII) at a time when scientists and researchers developed new forms of strategic thinking to meet the demands of governments (Purdy & Popan, 2016).
David Kelley is the founder and chairman of the global design and innovation company IDEO. Kelley also founded Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school. As Stanford’s Donald W. Whittier Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Kelley is the Academic Director of both of the degree-granting undergraduate and graduate programs in Design within the School of Engineering and has taught classes in the program for more than 35 years.
Kelley’s most enduring contributions are in human-centered design methodology and design thinking. He is most passionate about using design to help unlock creative confidence in everyone from students to business executives. A frequent speaker on these topics, Kelley and his brother co-authored the New York Times best-selling book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.
Figure 4. David Kelley. Stanford d.school
Design thinking in no longer confined solely to designers and is being implemented by broader non-creative organisations. In an interview with Chris Luebkeman, TimBrowndefines design thinking as “a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success” (Luebkeman, 2015, p. 34). Brown continues to describe design thinking as overlapping processes and not a sequence of well-rehearsed steps. Gibbons & Hokanson (2013, p. 257) support Brown when noting “about three decades ago it seemed impossible that design and design thinking would occupy its current home as one of the most discussed topics in organizational design, education, and innovation studies”. Frisendal (2012, p. 1) also supports Brown in this observation by saying “there is a considerable amount of interest in design thinking”.
Bjögvinsson, Ehn, & Hillgren (2012, p. 101) remark that “design thinking has become a central issue in contemporary design discourse and rhetoric”. A study focused on research in design thinking shows that although ‘embarrassingly slow’ there has been steady growth in our understanding of design ability (Cross, 2006, p. 30). In 2005 the respected Hasso Plattner Institutestarted teaching this methodology to engineering students (L. J. Leifer, Meinel, & Plattner, 2011, p. v). Buchanan states that the “emergence of design thinking in the twentieth century is important”. The author continues to applaud its ability to “connect and integrate useful knowledge from the arts and sciences alike, but in ways that are suited to the problems and purposes of the present” (Buchanan, 1992, p. 6). Dorst (2011) supports Buchanan in his position on the importance of design thinking when he notes it “is identified as an exciting new paradigm for dealing with problems in many professions”. In 2011, Bruce Nussbaum, who at Business Week was one of design thinking’s major advocates, stated “that the decade of design thinking is ending” (Nussbaum, 2011) and that he was moving on to another conceptual framework: Nussbaum believes “design thinking has given the design profession and society at large all the benefits it has to offer and is beginning to ossify and actually do harm” (Nussbaum, 2011). Nussbaum went further and called design thinking a ‘process trick’.
On the contrary Prof. Hasso Plattner, Co-founder of SAP, states “design thinking is getting more and more popular. Some already regard it as a new management paradigm” (Köppen et al., 2015). Similarly, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Pfizer think of design thinking as a problem-solving tool and position is as core component of their innovation strategy (“Lessons in Design Thinking From P&G and Pfizer,” 2015). Frisendal (2012, p. 17) confirms P&G commitment to design thinking through the establishment of their Global Business Service. “Advocated by the governments in Singapore, Finland, UK and Germany to name a few, Design Thinking has been implemented at all levels of organizations from start-ups to multinational corporations for less than a decade now. Engagements are typically conducted in workshop, or private settings by designers, design consultants and strategists” (Tjendra, 2013).
1. IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors
2. The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, commonly known as the d.school, is a design thinking Institute based in Stanford University.
3. Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to business people and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.
4. Inventor Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. He was the last of the seven children of Samuel and Nancy Edison. Thomas’s father was an exiled political activist from Canada. His mother, an accomplished school teacher, was a major influence in Thomas’ early life (http://www.biography.com/people/thomas-edison-9284349).
5. IDEO defines human-centered design as a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs.
6. Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to business people and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.
7. David M. Kelley is an American businessman, entrepreneur, designer, engineer, and teacher. He is founder, chairman, and managing partner of the design firm IDEO and a professor at Stanford University.
8. Leonard Bruce Archer CBE was a British mechanical engineer and later Professor of Design Research at the Royal College of Art who championed research in design and helped to establish design as an academic discipline.
9. U.S. social scientist Herbert A. Simon was known for his contributions in the fields of psychology, mathematics, statistics, and operations research. He combined elements of all those fields in a key theory that earned him the 1978 Nobel prize for economics.
10. Tim Brown is also the most cited author on design thinking – article in Harvard Business Review, 2008
11. The Hasso Plattner Institute, shortly HPI, is a German information technology university college, affiliated to the University of Potsdam and located in Potsdam-Babelsberg nearby Berlin.
12. Richard Buchanan is a professor of design, management, and information systems. Currently he teaches at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Previously he was the head of the Carnegie Mellon School of Design.
13. Born on July 30, 1863, near Dearborn, Michigan, Henry Ford created the Ford Model T car in 1908 and went on to develop the assembly line mode of production, which revolutionized the industry. As a result, Ford sold millions of cars and became a world-famous company head (http://www.biography.com/people/henry-ford-9298747).
14. Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to business people and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.
15. Between 1991 and 2003 IDEO had won 346 design awards and since opening its doors registered over 1,000 patents.
16. IDEO defines human-centered design as a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs.
17. Hasso Plattner is a German businessman. A co-founder of SAP SE software company, he has been chairman of the supervisory board of SAP SE since May 2003. As of November 2016, Forbes reported that he had a net worth of $10.8 billion.
18. The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford opened in the School of Engineering in 2005, bringing students and faculty from radically different backgrounds together to develop innovative, human-centered solutions to real-world challenges. Using techniques from design and engineering, the institute, known on campus as the d.school, instills creative confidence and draws students beyond the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines.
19. A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems
20. Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Design, one of the six academic units of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.
21. Jon Kolko is the vice president of design at Blackboard, an education software company; the founder and director of Austin Center for Design; and the author of Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love (HBR Press, 2014).
22. General Electric (GE) is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in New York and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. As of 2016, the company operates through the following segments: Aviation, Current, Digital, Energy Connections, Global Research, Healthcare, Lighting, Oil and Gas, Power, Renewable Energy, Transportation, and Capital which cater to the needs of Financial services, Medical devices, Life Sciences, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, Software Development and Engineering industries.
23. LUMA Institute equips people to be more innovative through a unique system of Human-Centered Design. Learn about training, resources & custom programs (https://www.luma-institute.com/).
24. During the course of his career, Richard Henderson has led some of the nation’s most significant brand identity projects. Richard has seen R-Co. as the vehicle through which he can influence change, shape and illuminate a client’s purpose through brand stories and identity design excellence (http://ideasondesign.net/speakers/speakers/richard-henderson/).
25. Founded in 1914 as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGA is now known simply as “AIGA, the professional association for design.” When referring to us, “AIGA” will do the trick—not “the American Institute of Graphic Arts,” not “the AIGA,” and not AIGA pronounced as a word (“Ay-guh” or “ā-gə”). Source: http://www.aiga.org/about/
26. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss nonprofit foundation, Cologny, Canton of Geneva. … The Forum is best known for its annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland (https://www.weforum.org/).
27. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/).
28. The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution . https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/
29. Wired is a monthly American magazine, published in print and online editions, that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy, and politics. Owned by Condé Nast, it is headquartered in San Francisco, California, and has been in publication since its first issue in March/April 1993 (https://www.wired.com/category/magazine/).
30. IBM is a global technology and innovation company that stands for progress. For more than a century, the company has focused on helping build a smarter planet. With operations in over 170 countries, IBMers around the world invent and apply software, hardware, business consulting, and technology services to help forward-thinking enterprises, institutions and people solve their most complex problems.
31. LUMA Institute is a training and development company that helps organizations and individuals (from K through CEO) learn and leverage the practices of Human-Centered Design. Its services help businesses, schools, and government enlist design to drive innovation and make things better (http://maya.com/news/maya-design-launches-luma-institute-to-teach-design-thinking-to-everyone).
32. wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.
33. Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie educate readers in one of the hottest trends in business: “design thinking,” or the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical applications for maximal business growth. Liedtka and Ogilvie cover the mind-set, techniques, and vocabulary of design thinking, unpack the mysterious connection between design and growth, and teach managers in a straightforward way how to exploit design’s exciting potential. https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Designing_for_Growth.html?id=HIxh2_ExnXMC&redir_esc=y&hl=en
34. Tim Brown is CEO and president of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to business people and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.
35. a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity.
36. a non-profit organization that operates independently of any government, typically one whose purpose is to address a social or political issue.
37. MAYA Design, a leading technology design and innovation consultancy, announced today the launch of LUMA Institute, a training and development venture dedicated to teaching the merit and methods of human-centered design in a world of connected products and services (http://maya.com/news/maya-design-launches-luma-institute-to-teach-design-thinking-to-everyone).
38. Harvard Business Review is a general management magazine published by Harvard Business Publishing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harvard University. HBR is published six times a year and is headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts.
39. Dr. Michael G. Luchs is an Associate Professor and is the Founding Director of the Innovation and Design Studio at the College of William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business and graduate of University of Texas at Austin in 2008 (Griffin, Luchs, & Swan, 2015).
Who is Tim Brown?
Tim Brown, the most cited author on design thinking is attributed with using the term ‘design thinking’ in 2003. Tim Brown is CEO and President of IDEO. He frequently speaks about the value of design thinking and innovation to business people and designers around the world. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com