I have been teaching and practicing design thinking for business for the almost ten years and over the years I saw the growing interest of design thinking among both business and design communities. Take away the aspiration side for now including notion such as design thinking to change the world etc., design thinking in business is barely understood let alone bring practiced widely. This is the time when businesses have been desperately looking for the next big thing - think the management “wonder drug”. Lets put some thought into this, is “design thinking" helpful or is it just a hype that is exporting the dogmas of design to business strategy? Design industry is having their own set of big issues.
What's Design Thinking? Design Thinking bascially refers to the methods, framework, tools and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring and visualizing insights, synthesizing knowledge, and imagining solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking or a method of creating solution, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and ideas, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.
While design thinking has become part of the popular lexicon in industrial design and engineering, its broader use in describing a particular style of creative thinking-in-action is having an increasing influence on 21st century education across disciplines. In this respect, it is similar to systems thinking in naming a particular approach to understanding and solving problems.
Buchanan’s (1992) paper “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” shifted design theory away from its legacy in the world of craft and industrial production towards a more generalized “design thinking” that could be applied to nearly anything. I mean anything, whether a tangible object or a complex system. Drawing on Pragmatist philosopher John Dewey, Buchanan saw design as a liberal art, uniquely well-placed to serve the needs of a technological culture in which many kinds of thing are designed, and human problems are complex. It is basically instilling new perspectives to look at a problem and frame them in different ways to provide more options to tackle whatever the problem is.
And for Design Thinking in Business - The very core of many management theories are being questioned and “management” is close to a point of failure or needed serious reset. Business leaders are looking to find something new to grasp onto in order to make sense of what’s going on and are looking to organize for a future of unprecedented uncertainties. Design Thinking brings a refreshed, revitalized, and rejuvenated approach to management and strategic thinking- but design thinking is far from a cure-all. Innovation, strategy and leadership are closely interconnected and to succeed you must have all three. Innovation is the ability to differentiate options for the future and develop a set of perspectives to guide them there. Strategy is the ability to connect customer needs and wants to the corporation’s core capability, economics and leadership is the ability to instill a sense of purpose for the organization and to mobilize everyone to work towards a common goal.
I don't think Design Thinking will end up like other short-lived management fads and it will eventually deeply embedded in what we called 'management' today and it will help connect the three: Innovation, Strategy and Leadership.