by Bill Winchester
If you’re part of a company that isn’t using design thinking to solve problems, well, sorry to be blunt but you’re behind the curve.
WHAT IS DESIGN THINKING?
Design thinking, for the uninitiated, is a process that uses the tenets of the design process and applies them to other problems. Part of the reason for this is that great design has become a major player in just about everything involving the consumer experience. Product design, web design, package design, store design have all taken on extreme importance in the race to become differentiated and memorable. Smart companies have not only embraced design but have embraced the thinking process that makes great design and applied it to a myriad of problems. The thinking that designers use is not longer “weird” and “non-linear” but has become “vetted” and “viable” and has allowed business to streamline the solutions to complicated problems with speed ultimately creating more lithe and nimble go-to-market strategies.
In a vast oversimplification, there are four major steps to design thinking. Breaking a process down into big pieces rather than micromanaging it speeds it up and forces an organization to really think about what’s important in a macro sense. It also forces a lot of experimentation, collaboration and rapid development of solutions. Things that are sadly lacking from most of corporate America.
BILL WINCHESTER’S SIMPLE STEPS OF DESIGN THINKING
There are a lot of different ways to break the process down, but here’s my take: Step 1: Observation. Step 2: Assimilation. Step 3: Rapid Prototyping. Step 4: Repeat.
Who else besides designers and smart companies use it?
Well, let’s take God for example. Not to get into an existential or futile discussion about religion that could potentially start an armed conflict, but for a really good example of design thinking you don’t have to go any further than the Book of Genesis. You want to create something fast? How about the heavens and earth in seven days? Actually, it was six because on the seventh day God probably just kicked back cracked a beer and tuned into a Packers/Bears game (he’s on the Packers side by the way.) Now that’s the advantage of design thinking. In other words, Genesis is a perfect example of the rapid prototyping part of the process:
IN THE BEGINNING … THERE WAS DESIGN THINKING
Day 1 – God created light and separated the light from the darkness,
calling light “day” and darkness “night.”
Day 2 – God created an expanse to separate the waters and called it “sky.”
Day 3 – God created the dry ground and gathered the waters, calling the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters “seas.” On day three, God also created vegetation (plants and trees).
Day 4 – God created the sun, moon, and the stars to give light to the earth and to govern and separate the day and the night. These would also serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years.
Day 5 – God created every living creature of the seas and every winged bird, blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life.
Day 6 – God created the animals to fill the earth. On day six, God also created man
and woman (Adam and Eve) in his own image to commune with him. He blessed
them and gave them every creature and the whole earth to rule over, care for, and cultivate.
Day 7 – God had finished his work of creation and so he rested on the seventh day, blessing it and making it holy.
Now, you may look at this and say, “Hey wait, on day one God created day and night but He didn’t create the sun, moon and stars until day four. What’s up with that?” That, my friends, is design thinking. You create a hypothesis first and then experiment with ways to accomplish the desired goal. Think of it as a wireframe of sorts and the prototypes as rough sketches.
God probably said, “I can’t have these poor people bumbling around in total darkness and they’re going to have to sleep at some point so I’m going to need light and dark, but I’m just not sure exactly how to create it yet.” Then on the fourth day, he had a brainstorm and said, “Hey, sun and stars and moon. And this is cool because now I have seasons, days and years.”
So, if you doubt the theory of design thinking just keep Genesis in mind. Or read Design Thinking by Tim Brown (or anything by Tim Brown for that matter), The Design of Business by Roger L. Martin or, if you’re in a company that’s ready to embrace great design and need some inspiration, Do You Matter by Robert Brunner.
Sorry, but I have to finish up here. The sky is getting very dark and there seems to be a lot of lightening.