Thursday, June 2, 2016

Comparing Frameworks

Requests to compare Design Thinking to another processes often show up in DT blogs. This shouldn't be surprising, as one of the ways humans reduce the time and effort needed to understand new information is by comparing patterns. If Design Thinking could be compared to similar method from another context, like teaching, it would help teachers understand DT more quicky.

Usually the question comes in the form of a request to compare Design Thinking to Agile or Kaizen or Lean.  This is where things start to get really interesting.

Consider these representations of some processes:

The first image represents activities and the degree of uncertainty during a design lifecycle.

The second image is a version of the Design Thinking process correlated to Imagineering.

The third image is a wedding cake representation of Blooms Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

The fourth is a comparison of Agile Hardware and Software development frameworks.

Each of these frameworks express a process. The question is; Are they simply different expressions of the same process? The answer to that question is embedded in the very human process of learning thru pattern recognition and experimentation.

Daniel Bor, author of The Ravenous Brain wrote about how we learn:

"The process of combining... pieces of information to create something more meaningful is a crucial aspect both of learning and of consciousness and is one of the defining features of human experience. 

Once we have reached adulthood, we have decades of intensive learning behind us, where the discovery of thousands of useful combinations of features, as well as combinations of combinations and so on, has collectively generated an amazingly rich, hierarchical model of the world. 

Inside us is also written a multitude of mini strategies about how to direct our attention in order to maximize further learning. We can allow our attention to roam anywhere around us and glean interesting new clues about any facet of our local environment, to compare and potentially add to our extensive internal model."

Solving wicked, complex, ambiguous, problems pushes our pattern recognition capability to the limits of memory and thinking. Our emotional responses to uncertainty and risk complicate matters by biasing us to approach or retreat from the unknown. This is why DT's bias towards optimism, comfort with failure, and rapid experimentation is so powerful. It encourages us to try, gain experience, learn from that experience, build new, and extend existing, frameworks as we forge into unknown territory in an effort to learn what we need to know to solve wicked problems. 

That is also why risk averse pessimists aren't going to feel comfortable with DT. As DT facilitators we need to soften the shock of the fearful and unfamiliar by investigating others' existing frameworks thru Empathic Inquiry, presenting and experiencing DT in a context which feels familiar and is easy to understand.

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