There are lots of discussions about the problems of Design Thinking — from suggesting that “design thinking is a con” to suggesting the biggest problem is that it excludes non-designers from the process. Although there certainly seems to be agreement that the name is quite cool.

Is a cool name enough?

Design thinking in the case of a user-focussed organisation is pretty much the same as what we have always done. To me, the cool name gives us is a little bit of interest and helps refocus the mindset.

There are two key benefits to this process (other than the cool name):

  1. It reminds us to think about the human first and moves us further away from an assumption based approach.
  2. We prototype or “do” something as early as possible to test if an approach is working

The word “design” causes confusion.

Many organisations trying to use the methodology hit one major misconception both internally and externally: that design thinking is “done” by designers and the process only looks at visual aesthetic aspects. In practice, it’s very much a collaboration from all disciplines “designing” and prototyping experiences, processes, systems, messaging and yes… visual elements.

If you are trying to bring design thinking into your organisation certainly have a look at Brian Ling’s thoughts on challenges implementing design thinking.

Design Thinking alone lacks a focus on ongoing improvement. The process guides you to thoroughly examine the human element of a given process and generate a wide set of ideas that can then be converged to find that “aha” moment. It’s fantastic for starting to deliver something meaningful and designed for the user, but what about completing the project or a programme of continuous improvement?

We can certainly apply the principles of lean UX to Think, Make and Check which are certainly very valuable. Would this focus on testing discrete parts of an offering mean we miss some of the bigger picture problems? There is another post that looks at how the Six Sigma Improvement Cycle could side with design thinking… maybe this is the silver bullet I am looking for!

I think it’s much simpler. Just continue to regularly apply the Think, Make and Check process with a design thinking mindset. This will give us that offering that is human-focussed and sitting in a programme of continuous improvement with a holistic view. Then the biggest issue becomes triage and governance around all the new problems flowing into an ever-growing backlog. What do we do next?!

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