In the continuing debate about design thinking, there’s great article on Core77, Design Thinking: Everywhere and Nowhere, Reflections on the Big Re-Think, which covers thoughts coming from the Big Rethink conference held by The Economist in London. Nearly every point in the article made me stake stock of my own beliefs, practices, and pontifications on design.
One of the best points reflects my thoughts on the constant barrage of design chatter: we are talking too much and doing too little (of which I am guilty). The article refers to this as overstretch, “the gap between design thinkers’ claims, and their knowledge, capabilities and ability to deliver on those promises.” In other words, the business world is buying it – design can be integral – but designers are not actually prepared to deliver. We may believe that we can do all sorts of things as designers (I wholeheartedly think we can), but we are still largely designing in the same ways and designing the same products we always have.
“What’s notable about the design thinking debate is not so much how design practice has changed, but rather how the audience for design has changed and raised its expectations.”
Why is this? Well, it’s easier to talk about design than to do it. We can talk about changing the world, working with business, social and cultural change, but very, very few designers actually have any experience doing this. And while that’s humbling, the good news is demand has been created. All the evangelizing has created a new audience and new opportunities.
There are two more things I’d like to point out. First, I really appreciate the following point, which addresses any fears that designers will be trumped by a throng of managers sporting design thinking caps.
We should remember that designers learn by doing, not by learning and practising a theory, designing involves a lot more tacit knowledge than in other areas of business. It’s therefore hard to believe that senior managers can change their thinking habits of a lifetime after a workshop or two working with designers. And, to be frank, to suggest as much devalues what designers do.
And finally, one of the best definitions I have seen for design thinking: “anything said on the subject of design that sounded smart.” Brilliant.