I’ve presented to you before the critical view of design thinking, a few articles and videos that generally say it’s trash. The time has come to address some of the accusations and misconceptions that float out there in the sea of the world wide web… And first things first: no, design thinking will not fix all your problems. No, design thinking is not a one-stop-shop for all innovations and solutions. It’s not one shoe fits all approach. But it’s also not a useless methodology, it’s not trash. It just longs to be understood.
Now, take a look at how design thinking fits within those complaints.
I have heard and read designers (service designers, graphic designers, urban designers, researchers, ethnographic researchers, and many more) lament that the idea behind design thinking is not new, that it’s not some kind of suddenly-invented methodology. Yes, that is true. But only to those designers! Because design thinking was specially coined for people who are not designers, for people who don’t know double diamond, research ethics, audience analysis and such. It was “invented” as a helpful methodology for those who want to solve problems and be creative, without linking them to certain professions. Therefore, naturally, designers know all this, but us simple folk, we needed some guidance.
To start with, I don’t see anything wrong with answering market demands. For example, you probably noticed the rise of online courses in recent times, everyone is offering an online course or masterclass or whatnot. Having said that, the proof is in the quality, yes. Now, there are tons of proven successful cases of using design thinking to elevate businesses, change cultures, modernize services. Isn’t that what the goal is, and should be? If the market needs a way to introduce those successful changes, and design thinking gives that, what is wrong with that?
This argument comes from someone who clearly did not dive deeper into design thinking and only based their opinion on watching how teams work. Design thinking does use lots of post-it notes, but using them for brainstorming, for storyboarding – that’s not news! There are specific reasons for using them, specific reasons to work in such a funny and unpressured way with post-it notes and other materials – it unlocks creativity (let’s chat about this one next), creates a welcoming atmosphere, helps to research with people who have the negative approach, and so on. If you don’t look into the fun exercises, or what is written on the post-it notes and how they are used, you don’t see the actual design thinking.
I don’t think I’ve heard anyone make the claim that design thinking will solve problems via creativity. Even looking at the main five stages of design thinking, you can see it starts with empathy and research to then go to problem definition. Creativity plays a big part here, yes, of course, but only by the ways of trying to look at potential problems, interview results, or survey responses from another point of view. It adds to the spice of idea generation too. But in no way is it replacing actual and fact-based research, no!