These days I am getting a little bothered with the phrase "design thinking". There is a lot causal misuse but the phrase has gained popularity and currency because it is new, it gives designers new status and it helps to push design firm upstream and hopefully they can solve bigger problems with design ideas. I am as guilty as many and I do like the phrase because it gives new meaning to a thinking style that are suppressed or often ignored in the boardroom or in executive meetings.
But there’s a few myths and people assume anyone who is working as a designer or received a design education is naturally a design thinker. That’s not true. It is like saying anyone who graduate from a business school with an MBA is naturally a strategic thinker. I can pretty much guarantee you that’s not true, having hired more than 500 MBAs in my career. Many strategic thinkers are non MBAs. But MBA helps.
What makes a person a design thinker? And what makes a person a strategic thinker? First myth, design is not the domain of designers. Design (beyond form and function) encompasses a broader set of influences and is (should be) part of any complex decision making process. Designing for Social Change; Designing for Business Transformation; Design for New Organization Structure; Design for Social Participation; and Design for Strategic Agility etc. Most of these are beyond the training of designers and many great traditional industrial design companies. This is not about designing a cute logo or poster or chair.
Second myth, design does NOT replace analytical analysis. It is true to say that analysis alone cannot solve some of the wicked problems that are immensely complex in nature, but without analysis we can’t even pinpoint the problems. I'll admit I am a "Deductionist" first and I am also a "Creative Artist". I probably use the logic of necessity or the logic of probability to support my day-to-day decision making more than I use my creative thinking. It is most powerful when I combine the two... and with a little artistic flair.
Unfortunately our societies (and school systems) like to lead us to think we can only be good at one. I am an example. I am good at both and I think many others are good at both without knowing it. There are many examples out there. John Maeda is one good one.
It is an education system problem, It is how we want people to think - you are a creative person or you're an engineer. I believe everyone has the potential to be good at both (and sometimes people are bad at both, that’s another discussion).
In additional to creativity and analytical thinking, there is a third component -- style and elegance. OK not all designers have style and can design in an elegant fashion. This is the third myth. I am guessing (from my past experience) that only 35% of designers have styles. The others are just design technician. And probably only 3-4% of MBAs have styles, that’s a pretty high estimate? It may even be lower.
Designing itself is an extreme activity. So is strategizing. Both tends to call on all those engaged in the process. It is contextual. It is embodied. It uses the whole person's mind and body, left and right brain, economics and empathy, hearts and minds, analysis and expressions, elegance and structure. So what are you?
Our resident scientists and anthropologists have spent months designing an application which was originally used as part of Idea Couture’s recruitment process. As you know, we pride ourselves as D.School and B.School thinkers and that's how we bring innovative solutions to clients' wicked problems. Now we decide to open it up and allow you to do the test and share the results with your friends on Facebook.
If you get very high D.School and B.School scores, you really should contact me asap. The next step of the test is a little more complex and will require some attachment of sensors to your head while we show you some power points, you don't need to know more about that for now. And if you unfortunately get very low scores on both, I suggest you get some immediate counseling.