Design Thinking is Not a Failed Experiment
The Experiments Have Only Begun
by Idris Mootee
This is my response to Bruce Nussbaum’s latest Fast Companyâ€™s blog declaring â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ is over and that he is moving on to something new. He is calling it “Creative Quotient” which is really his new book, I was wondering why he would make that statement. People hardly fully understand what Design Thinking is, now he wants to introduce another idea. Not too fast! I was writing this while waiting for the airport to clear as President Obama’s Air Force One was there and they closed down the runway.
Bruce writes â€œThe decade of Design Thinking is ending and I, for one, am moving on to another conceptual framework: Creative Intelligence, or CQ. I am writing a book about Creative Intelligence, due out from Harper Collins in fall 2012â€¦…â€
He can move on but for sure but not me (Sorry Bruce, I really can’t agree with you on this one.) Although there is some truth there about consultants quick to turn any ideas or practices into â€˜processesâ€™ that companies can buy out of a box and consultants can help them implement in 60 days. Most of the time they donâ€™t even know what they are doing. Even if they do, they often ignore the soft side with an over-emphasize on the hard side. On that note, the comment is equally true if apply to any practices. Processes are important and thatâ€™s how large organizations function, it is easy to say letâ€™s improve our creative quotient throughout the organizations and we will be fine. For me, Design Thinking is much getting more solid that ever as we develop them further into business practices and if fully integrated in the organization culture decision-making and support toolkit, it can be very powerful.
On the other hand, â€œCreative Quotientâ€ is like saying letâ€™s is more creative. Sometimes I wish I could detach the word â€˜creativeâ€™ from â€˜design thinking.â€™ I know I cannot, but design thinking is not all above creativity. There is a lot more than being creative. When Bruce suggested that the success rate for design thinking processes was very low. I am not sure he can make that statement. It is like saying the success rate for strategic thinking processes was very low. We need to look at the maturity lifecycle of how it is implemented and to what extend it is embraced my organizations and well as aligned with the companyâ€™s business strategies. It is large small change effort, not a quick process redesign. Letâ€™s wait for at least five to eight years to make that conclusion. A case in point, it took the academics and the business community more than 25 years before someone publicly declared the â€œDeath of Strategic Planningâ€.
The increased adoption of multidisciplinary approaches to business problem solving and including the application of â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ (but not exclusively) helps organizations fill a critical and often over looked knowledge gaps and solve some of information deficiencies. Problem. By combining the two organizations establish more comprehensive and ultimately competitive bodies of actionable knowledge and insights that reflect and avoid from pitfalls of linear strategic planning. This approach does not discount or diminish the value of traditional business methods in problem solvingâ€“ rather â€“ by leveraging the best qualities of both business and design thinking- it establishes a more sensitive, powerful and potent analytical tool and resulting in a more holistic perspective and learning experience that is meaningful, valid and agile.
“Design Thinking” is here to stay. â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ allows us to provide a systemic response to the challenges that we all face. Not designing bandages or tactics that ultimately create more problems than they are designed to solve. â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ brings empathy into the core of strategy making and allows rapid decision-makings with insufficient data, which is where most people structure with in innovation.
â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ also has a positive effect on changing organizational culture â€“ reveals and introduces new behaviors and challenges people to communicate and learn in new ways â€“ while empowering them (through the adoption of tools, techniques, and culture) to think differently. But this is NOT the â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ they teach in design schools. So donâ€™t be confused.
The world of MBAs likes the quantitative assurance even though they know it is just a false sense of confidence. Microsoft Excel is only marginally more accurate than a crystal ball or tarot cards. Iâ€™ve seen many smart MBAs struggle with innovation be in the process or the problem identification and solving approach and most of all they donâ€™t understand very core values of design thinking. This is why innovation is so hard for management consultants. Equally it is hard for the designers waving their banners saying â€˜design thinking hereâ€™ and what they are selling is raw creativity or cute ideas or pretty designs. Not solutions to wicked problems in an increasing complex world. We have enough buzzwords, thereâ€™s no need to introduce a new one. Letâ€™s stick with â€œDesign Thinkingâ€ for now.
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.
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