Enough! With Design Thinking Already.
Design Thinking has become the topic of interest in many rooms, as office banters, serious workshops and more for some time now. Be it as a quip or some witty remark in a boardroom meeting, a workshop that is a must to attend for various management and teams. It's safe to say, Design Thinking has made its way into every conversation in different ways, in fact, to a point some may say enough has been said about it. You may have also come across it in different settings and would have been introduced to it, or dismissed it as a short-lived fad in your circle. But before you dismiss it completely, you should ask a question: are you really open to creative problem solving? Or you are just waiting for a framework to be handed to you, which you ought to follow without a genuine creative response from you or your team.
You know the golden word of every industry on loop: Innovation, Innovation and Innovation. The top management of most companies and lean startups aspires to have similar thinking and work culture as Apple Inc., Facebook, SAP Labs and Google in order to raise revenues as these companies have. They have the best interest, obviously, with new investment in research and development. This also involves rebuilding their teams with a creative pool of geniuses, namely, designers, thinkers, strategists and researchers.
Imagine yourself in the shoes of a leader trying to integrate two product teams from two organizations with significantly different business approaches, work culture and thinking culture. We can anticipate the chaos that would unfold. The endeavor towards rebuilding a culture through design is often real. It is seen as an initiative from a visionary leadership in hierarchical organizations driven from the top and may not initially have the same enthusiasm amongst middle management and other essential roles who prefer to work in silos (or have been since the dawn of time). Furthermore, change in work culture and way of thinking can involve revisiting existing systems and processes that have existed for decades or more. It can be difficult for people who do not savor working with others and would rather spend long hours at their workstation to convince everybody to get on board with their ideas. This can be a daunting task in itself. According to the new league of business evangelists, the hot management trend of DT when combined with right management tools can be a good starting point to the path of management development and individual skill-building. Certainly, there is extensive literature, both academic and practitioner-oriented, in books, journals and social media on DT in business and management but to find weight in this hot claim we have to examine the displayed conviction of Design thinking. What has and how has it managed to maintain the consistent intrigue for the sorcery of DT amongst the top leadership in many organizations?
If we see Design thinking beyond a framework, methodology or as a how-to apply tool for creativity aimed at business pursuits, with DT as a mindset we would be able to make any room open to question existing ‘uncool’ practices within your design team, management and leadership. When I say question, I mean does the role of design and creativity end at aesthetics or appeal? Does design for maximum onboarding, user engagement and such sticky hooks drive your design process? If yes, maybe we ought to rethink our role when it comes to Design, ethics and responsibility.
I am not saying Design Thinking is the answer to everything, in fact, too often, DT is driven by the imaginations and biases of those empowered to solve a problem. Use it wisely.
This article has been authored by Devyani M. Lal, who is a User Researcher and Design Research Practitioner based in San Francisco, California.