There has been such an obsession with this word in last few years, to the point where I almost became allergic to it.
Don’t get me wrong… Design thinking is a very inspiring notion to obsess about, but in the end, I believe it is also just a well-branded word to describe what common sense would simply call “intelligent thinking“.
Observing, analyzing, understanding, learning, exploring, creating, testing, listening, challenging, improving etc. are not new notions. We, as a species, have been consciously/unconsciously using design thinking for centuries. This is how and why we keep improving our condition, progressing, inventing and learning about the world.
By Tim Brown
“In the past, design has most often occurred fairly far downstream in the development process and has focused on making new products aesthetically attractive or enhancing brand perception through smart, evocative advertising. Today, as innovation’s terrain expands to encompass human-centered processes and services as well as products, companies are asking designers to create ideas rather than to simply dress them up.
Brown, the CEO and president of the innovation and design firm IDEO, is a leading proponent of design thinking—a method of meeting people’s needs and desires in a technologically feasible and strategically viable way. In this article he offers several intriguing examples of the discipline at work. One involves a collaboration between frontline employees from health care provider Kaiser Permanente and Brown’s firm to reengineer nursing-staff shift changes at four Kaiser hospitals. Close observation of actual shift changes, combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping, produced new procedures and software that radically streamlined information exchange between shifts. The result was more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.
Another involves the Japanese bicycle components manufacturer Shimano, which worked with IDEO to learn why 90% of American adults don’t ride bikes. The interdisciplinary project team discovered that intimidating retail experiences, the complexity and cost of sophisticated bikes, and the danger of cycling on heavily trafficked roads had overshadowed people’s happy memories of childhood biking. So the team created a brand concept—“Coasting”—to describe a whole new category of biking and developed new in-store retailing strategies, a public relations campaign to identify safe places to cycle, and a reference design to inspire designers at the companies that went on to manufacture Coasting bikes.”
Origins of the term
The notion of design as a “way of thinking” in the sciences can be traced to Herbert A. Simon‘s 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial, and in design engineering to Robert McKim’s 1973 book Experiences in Visual Thinking. Peter Rowe’s 1987 book Design Thinking, which described methods and approaches used by architects and urban planners, was a significant early usage of the term in the design research literature. Rolf Faste expanded on McKim’s work at Stanford University in the 1980s and 1990s, teaching “design thinking as a method of creative action.” Design thinking was adapted for business purposes by Faste’s Stanford colleague David M. Kelley, who founded IDEO in 1991. Richard Buchanan‘s 1992 article “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” expressed a broader view of design thinking as addressing intractable human concerns through design.