Is Design Thinking more easily embraced by some cultures and impossible for others?
Ronald B. Kemnitzer, FIDSA, Professor and Chair, Industrial Design Program | Virginia Tech
“What now matters is the design and delivery of value. That needs design thinking. That needs creative thinking. Judgment thinking alone is not going to be enough. Most people, in business and elsewhere, have done very well on judgment thinking. Such people are rarely aware of the need for ‘design thinking’. They find it difficult to conceive that there is a whole other aspect of thinking that is different from judgment thinking. It is not that such people are complacent. It is simply that they do not know that there is another aspect to thinking.”
-Edward de Bono, Why So Stupid? How the Human Race Has Never Really Learned to Think
‘Design thinking’ has become the currently popular buzzword in the business world. What seems to be the latest new business tool to many has always been a ‘natural’ part of our world. Although it has become such a popular pastime in business circles to discuss design thinking, many people are unsure of what the true definition is and conveniently fashion one to suit their own purposes. Others see it as no big deal, preferring to define design thinking as plain old common sense. Perhaps that latter attitude is the result of incorrect definitions of design thinking such as that offered by Wikepedia: “Design Thinking is a process for practical creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result.” DT, the author of the design blog ‘Design Sojourn’ defines it as “… a thinking process that anchors your decision making with multidisciplinary influences.” One of the most enthusiastic proponents of design thinking is the phenomenally successful design practice IDEO. Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, was very clear about the value of design thinking to their success in an address to the ‘Dean’s Innovative Leadership Series’ at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He stated that “At IDEO, a ‘design thinker’ must not only be intensely collaborative, but ‘empathic’ as well as have a craft to making things real in the world. Since design flavors virtually all of our experiences, from products to services to spaces, a design thinker must explore a ‘landscape of innovation’ that has to do with people, their needs, technology and business.” John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, expressed another observation of the unique ways designers think in his blog, ‘Redesigning Leadership’ by remarking “I see now that designers are people who can make information emotional and visceral, who can make a bigger impact by thoughtfully marrying form and content. They are ‘experience perfectionists’, the ones who always ask about the space a meeting will occur in so they can arrange the room and have music or images playing when people walk in. They are obsessed with materials; they can have a completely literate and thoughtful conversation about the width of a rubber band being used as a book binding, and how it will change the way the book is perceived.” Clearly, the true definition of design thinking is far more complicated and richer than that offered by Wikepedia.