|A revelatory moment|
There has been a lot of digital ink spilt over the question of what Design Thinking is and whether it works. Is it a method? Is it a frame of mind? How is it done? Is it new, or just a restatement of another pre-existing method?
I’ve been participating in a few online forums discussing Design Thinking - much of which has been a lively back and forth between a variety of views. These have typically fallen into one of two broad categories; Differences of opinion resulting from difference in experience (“The Blind Men and the Elephant") and Tower of Babel / Lost in Translation / Why don’t we understand each other even tho we are using the same words? sort of head bashing.
A couple of days ago, I found myself in another of these situations when I was presented with the description of something called Presumptive Design, being advocated by Leo Fishberg, a very smart guy at Intel. It advocates a shoot, fire, correct, aim approach, with lots of rapid prototyping and testing. That looks a lot like Design Thinking in terms of the parts of the process, but didn’t line up in terms of the order. Which got me thinking about if order really makes a difference.
Is is possible to enter Design Thinking in any phase? If so, why do Tom and Dave Kelley clearly state that Design Thinking "starts with empathy”. What difference would it make if you didn’t begin with empathy?
|Have the mindset of a novice.|
Many of us received our design training at an "institution of higher learning”, with all the competitiveness that attends that environment. Many students believe deeply that good grades are the best indicator of a future profitable career. Even when we are put into teams in a classroom environment the grade we receive at the end of the course is individual. In addition, the tradition of the odd but brilliant individual contributor continues to be a part of our collective story. Much of our backgrounds biases us towards individual recognition and success. Sometimes we carry that bias with us our entire careers.
Let's compare Design Thinking to other methods in that regard; In "traditional" approaches someone - often an "entrepreneur" - gets an idea for a new product or a better way to do something, prototypes it and (hopefully) tests that with potential customers. This is the “Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door” method. With Design Thinking you start with customers - ask them to tell you their stories, find their pain, and then reiteratively build and test prototypes until they tell you it’s what they want.
Many of the world's business appear to have been built around the first model. It was what I was taught at business school. You design something and take it into the marketplace. Find the customers who will bring in the orders and the money. Ever watch Shark Tank? Have you ever seen someone come in and say "Hey Sharks! I don't have a neat new product! I have customers with unfulfilled needs and I want you to give me $5 million dollars to help fill them!" Right... Next contestant.
|You wanna piece of my pie?|
With Design Thinking you go into the marketplace and say; “Hey! My friends and I have some skills that may be useful. Does anyone here need any help?” The more it hurts the more we care! With traditional design approaches its; “Hey! I’ve been working on this thing, which I think is pretty cool, for months (years.. decades…). It’s still not done, but I sure would like to know how many people here would like to buy it!”
Can you see the difference? In one case there is a lot of time and effort spent building something that may fill the needs of a handful of people who may have the same need as the designer - entrepreneur, who is often very different from “the rest of us”.
In the other case, the designer, who’s personality, skills and creativity make them very different from “the rest of us”, is trying to fill the deep and often unexpressed needs of "the rest of us", and starts by putting a lot of effort into discovering what they are. Not to put too religious a spin on it, but that's similar to 1 John 4:19; "We loved him because he loved us first."
There is another benefit from this; When people are given the opportunity to participate in creating their own solutions, they are more fully invested and committed to a successful outcome. Design Thinking’s open, collaborative, customer needs driven approach excels in investment, literally and figuratively, because it starts with a built-in customer base for the solution.
|Vive la différence!|