Applying Design Thinking to Business ProblemsLuke Wroblewski, a Principal Designer at Yahoo! has been reflecting on design thinking on his blog, Functioning Form.
Ever since Computer Human Interaction 2006 conference I've been thinking more and more about design and innovative service development and in what ways libraries innovative and design new services.
Designers and design thinking has become the new black - the hot profession and the hot skills that are in demand. Recent successes brought about by new and innovative products have put design on the radar screen of most companies as the element that can clearly differentiate their product from others and win customers.
Is there a need for more "design thinking" in libraries? Are libraries innovating as fast as the environment around them? Are we nurturing and rewarding "design thinking" processes in our workplace? Former GE CEO, Jack Welch, once said "If the rate of change outside of an organization is greater than the rate of change within it, the end is in sight for that organization". I don't think libraries are doomed at all but the role of the library is definitely impacted by many of the changes around us.
Perhaps "design thinking" can aid libraries in adapting to changing environments and customer expectations more quickly and effectively?
So what is design thinking?
Victor Lombardi, What is Design Thinking, Noise Between Stations Blog takes a crack at defining it.
- Collaborative, especially with others having different and complimentary experience, to generate better work and form agreement
- Abductive, inventing new options to find new and better solutions to new problems
- Experimental, building prototypes and posing hypotheses, testing them, and iterating this activity to find what works and what doesn¬?t work to manage risk
- Personal, considering the unique context of each problem and the people involved
- Integrative, perceiving an entire system and its linkages
- Interpretive, devising how to frame the problem and judge the possible solutions
Dan Saffer, Thinking About Design Thinking on his O Danny Boy blog also provides a definition.
Dan Saffer suggests that design thinking is a combination of these things:
creative, innovative, and focused on problem-solving. But so is the thinking of many different types of professions: lawyers, engineers, and contractors, to name only a few. So lets remove those as differentiators right away. No, if there is such a thing as design thinking, it's probably shorthand for these things:
- A Focus on Customers/Users ...
- Finding Alternatives ...
- Ideation and Prototyping ...
- Wicked Problems ...
- A Wide Range of Influences ...
- Emotion ...
What does "design thinking" matter?
Roger Martin in his From the Dean column in Rotman Management: The Alumni Magazine of the Rotman School of Management and Business Design Winter 2004, states that design is the new arena of competition [my emphasis].
Organizations can no longer count on quality, performance or price alone to sustain leadership in the global marketplace. Design has emerged as a new competitive weapon and key driver of innovation.
Design is now firmly part of the lexicon of innovation, so it¬?s no surprise that the application of design sensibilities and skills now extends to innovations as varied as online interactions and improved business processes. P.5
Karen Christensen interviewed IDEO President and CEO Tim Brown about his ideas on design and innovation in IDEO¬?S Design Mindset, Rotman Management: The Alumni Magazine of the Rotman School of Management and Business Design Winter 2004.
Tim Brown: Most MBA graduates have been taught to think analytically, and that¬?s a perfectly acceptable way of thinking, but it¬?s not the only way of thinking. Design thinking is very useful for tackling certain kinds of problems and unveiling opportunities. It is especially useful for thinking about 'the future'?, because you actually create tangible versions of it when you use design thinking. It encourages you to be empathic with the needs of others. That's something business people don't do enough of. Too often, they attempt to specify the 'right'? solution, build it once, and trust that it will work. P. 22
The Difference Between a Business Thinking and Design Thinking?
Luke Wroblewski also has posted an interesting the table summarizing a business approaches and design approaches and how the approach changes the activities and validations processes in a business. The "business approach" thrives in a culture of "expertise" that relies on problem identification, proof, and the "right" solution. A design culture is more iterative, customer centric and based on direct observation.
"Expertise" Focused Workplace Cultures and Design Thinking
Joan Frye Williams in the ASU Libraries: Podcast Series "Matching Innovations to Environment" describes the different environments/workplace cultures that exist in libraries and states that the "expert" environment is the most common one. She relates a story from the book, From Paris the Moon where an elevator operator at the Eiffel Tower and an American tourist cross swords. The tourist wants to change her mind about where to get off, but the elevator operator, the expert, knows what's best ... the ticket says the top viewing level and that's where she can get off. Joan Frye Williams describes some libraries hat have customer centric environments ... those libraries are already more in tune with "design thinking" and probably using many aspects of "design thinking".