!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Teaching Design Thinking

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Teaching Design Thinking

I was prompted by an article on "design thinking" in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review to see what more I could learn about just what "design thinking" is — something the HBR article does not make entirely clear.

David Kelley, founder of IDEO, professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, and the man most associated with the promotion of teaching businesspeople design thinking, is the obvious source to turn to. In a 2006 interview with writer Andrew Blum, Kelley explains one of the three key aspects of design thinking as follows:
Instead of feeling that you know it all, that you’re the expert in the subject, design thinking also means being humble and questioning it. Many of the people who are designing things today are “experts” which means they’re looking for ideas from that “expert” viewpoint. But design thinking is much more about going out into the world not having a point of view and just finding these latent needs that are obvious, but only when you look with no agenda. With design thinking we try to get in the right general area first rather than just accepting what the problem is. We’re more experimental and less calculating. It’s optimistic. We thrive on the creative challenges rather than the obstacles. And it’s more intuitive, or empathetic, or however you want to say it. All this ends up being really cathartic for people who do nothing but analytical thinking!1
Kelley goes on to allude to a second key aspect of design thinking — rapid prototyping and iterative homing in on the best solution to whatever innovation challenge a team is addressing.

In this particular interview, Kelley does not mention the third aspect of the design thinking methodology — implemention — but implementation does get full attention in the aforementioned HBR article, which will be the subject of tomorrow's post. In the meantime, you can review here an excellent case stduy of how the Institute of Design (aka the d.school) applies the design thinking methodology.

1 It is important to note that not everyone agrees that "design thinking" is a clearly defined concept. See, for example, this article in the May issue of Metropolis.


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