Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on July 10, 2009
Fred Collopy has a great blog item up at Fast Company on why he dislikes the “Thinking” part of the term “Design Thinking.” In essence, Fred argues that the best part of design is the “doing,” not the thinking and the focus on Design Thinking short-changes what designers can really do in education, health and other spaces outside their traditional consumer-oriented activities.
As an early proponent and major supporter of Design Thinking, I can only say “Amen” to Fred. I totally agree. It is the ability to create new options and build new products, services and experiences that gives design so much power. It is the ability to understand deeply cultures from digital social media networks to small villages in southern India that gives design its power.
And finally, it is the evolution of design into Design (with or without the “Thinking” term) to redesign large scale social systems in business and civic society that has folks moving to embrace it. In this era of melting models and flaming careers, of economic uncertainty and social volatility, Design has a set of tools and methods that can guide people to new solutions.
Which is why MIT, Harvard, Rotman, McKinsey and dozens of corporations are moving to Design to help navigate the present and the future. It is why in Britain and the Continental governments are embracing Design to help redesign basic social services.
And it is why the World Economic Forum has invited me to join a new GAC--Global Agenda Council on Designing Large Scale Social Systems.
The truth is that despite the clumsiness of the term Design Thinking, there is no limitation to the Doing in the Design Thinking. It is a way of thinking about doing on a strategically big scale--a new learning experience for all children, a better health-care experience for older people, a more honest political system for voters.
The very best analysis of the failure of business schools and the new for management to embrace design principles is Shoshana Zuboff's remarkable essay on the failure of business school education. A professor at Harvard Business School for 25 years, Zuboff says that the focus on the company and how to make it more efficient is being replaced by a focus on the consumer, the learner, the patient, the individual.
Transaction is being replaced by relationship as the source of value in business. Design's anthropological focus (its "user-focus") and its ability to iterate and generate new things off the knowledge about from that anthropological perspective are the powerful tools attracting CEOs, NGOs, and Politicos.
It would be tragic for designers to turn their back on Design just when society is embracing it just because of a dispute over terminology. So Fred, forget the nomenclature. Call it a a banana and let's get on with helping our society redesign itself.
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