Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Heart and Mind of the Matter

Let's Dance
A recent discussion on LinkedIn asking to define the meaning of Design Thinking in two words garnered over 500 replies which ranged from buzz word to near religion. The variety in both interpretation and passion prompted me to apply some Design Thinking to understanding what was behind it all and I've come to a startlingly simple conclusion; In two words, Design Thinking is Problem Solving. More specifically, Design Thinking is an extremely effective approach to solving almost any type of problem. Here's why;

Let's start with the Merriam Webster definition of Problem:

Full Definition of PROBLEM
     a : a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution
     b : a proposition in mathematics or physics stating something to be done

     a : an intricate unsettled question
     b : a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation
     c : difficulty in understanding or accepting <I have a problem with your saying that>

By definition, problems are associated with;
  • having questions
  • testing hypothesis
  • complexity
  • difficulty understanding
  • difficulty accepting someone else's position
  • emotional distress
If you accept Webster's definition of Problem, the next step is to ask; What might be done in response? Obtaining a solution to a problem could require dealing with any or all of the elements by;
  • finding answers (by asking more questions)
  • conducting experiments (rapid prototyping)
  • breaking the problem down to its essential parts
  • trying multiple ways of learning and expression (visual, verbal, quantitative...)
  • being empathic and understanding other's points of view
Interestingly, the phases and methods of Design Thinking are directed at exactly these elements;

There are a few things about DT which may not seem intuitive at first. For example; asking more questions in order to find answers may seem like a waste of time, or how accounting for the emotional aspects of a situation helps find a better "technical" solution,  but if we stick to the definition of problem a DT based approach fits the bill perfectly.

Which beings us to one of the deepest questions about Design Thinking; 

Why do so many people seem to have such a problem understanding it?

I suspect the answer to that lays in the fundamental nature of the way humans think.

In the next post, we'll explore the interplay between learning and emotion and how stress affects creativity.

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