Most of the ideas in this post have been stolen from Marcio Dupont’s blog on May 1, 2014.
Design Thinking has become a bit of a craze in both Business Schools and companies. But design work is more than design thinking. Design work involves two activities, the creative ideas and insights activity and the practical, turn-it-into-reality activity.
Design Thinking is really helpful in the creative activity – but it does not do much to help you turn it into reality. The chart above has “choose” and “implement”, but design thinking does not focus on these steps. For good design, according to Marcio, you need Design Thinking and a Designer: by this he means someone who takes the hard and practical decisions, mobilizes others, leads the project and brings out a workable result. Another way of expressing this is that for good design we need a Design Thinker and a Design Producer (or Design Director).
The reason why I am dancing on the head of this pin is that I think Marcio has a point. It is easy to get carried away with creativity, and forget that we all need to keep our feet on the ground. For every out of the box thinker we also need an in the box thinker. This is Marcio:
“Many businesses and schools have a belief that good design thinking will solve all the problems of a global company in several areas from design, engineering to management.
Nowadays, companies want innovative solutions quickly and at low cost, and it seems that somehow, design thinking is seen as the solution. The expensive, complex and time consuming processes demanded by “traditional” design work, have been transformed into a cheap, fast and without major complexities process within design thinking.
This perception of design thinking displays the Design Profession as something that can be practiced by anyone, without the guidance of a Designer.”
I have edited a little because the original is in Portuguese – no I don’t read Portuguese, but was working from a translation. Marcio goes over the top here. Design Thinking is much more than a cheap, fast process. But he also has a point. It is easy to put the design thinking bit of the design process on a pedestal, and believe that, if you do this well, you will come out with a good design.
So what is Design Thinking? It includes “going to Gemba”, going to the places where the value is being created – the production line, the sales interaction, the customer usage moment – and observing what is happening. It includes laying out customer journeys or supplier journeys or employee journeys to understand how people arrive and leave these “moments of truth” (P&G phrase). It includes deep interviews to understand motivations, values and philosophies. It includes mock-ups and trials and role plays and three-D printing of models.
And what is Design Direction or Design Production? Design Direction includes project management. It includes agreeing plans and budgets with the sponsor client. It includes working up good “design principles”. It includes evaluating ideas against design principles and against other tests of practicality. It includes destruction testing. It includes a deep knowledge of the technologies needed to make the design work. It includes making tough decisions and compromises. It includes organising people and sub-contractors to meet deadlines.
You need both for a good design outcome.