Thursday, December 1, 2011

What is Design Thinking?



Design thinking is a term that was frequently used in contemporary design and engineering but as the global market is going through financial turmoil, many businesses adopt it in search of new and innovative solutions that will help them survive and stay competitive.

Design thinking can be described as an action-based thinking that focuses on new solutions and not on existing problems. It seeks to improve future results through the ability to grasp the context of the current situation, use of creative thinking to generate ideas and rational thinking to decide upon objectives, implementation and evaluation methods of the adopted solutions. It differs both from scientific and artistic creative thinking. 

Scientific thinking starts with analysis of all parameters of a problem in order to define solution while artistic thinking is most often abstract and concerned with emotional and symbolic aspects and representations of topics.

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Design thinking is particularly useful in situations where we do not have well defined problem and/or when we feel that we need some solution but we have no idea what kind of solution we should look for. Other obstacles to our thinking may be lack of information, rapidly changing environment and new technologies that demand new thinking paradigms different from those we are traditionally used to.

During the ideation process, design thinkers explore alternatives, look for different or variant ideas (divergent thinking) while concentrating their thoughts on finding the most appropriate solution to the problem (convergent thinking). I use the term ’appropriate’ because the most logical, or the most practical solution is not necessarily the best.

Creative thinking is vital throughout the whole process of design thinking.
It can help us process information (those that we have, those that we do not have and those that we can only guess or presume), generate great volume of ideas (the more the better, no censorship is allowed in the early stages of creative process) and in building prototypes and models that we can test before the actual implementation of our ideas.

Why is design thinking so important?
Design thinking teaches us to become flexible thinkers. Here there is no straight route that we need to follow in order to get to the solution. This way we can have wider perspective on the topic of our thinking which can help us to better understand the problem and generate more ideas.

Why is it so efficient?
One of the main features of this type of thinking is that it can be successful even in situations where we do not have enough information to start from. In these cases we use intuitive thinking, and intuitive thinking is closely connected to creative thinking. Design thinking also allows improvisation which can provide variable solutions. Moreover, success of this process of thinking does not depend solely on professional qualifications of people engaged - it rather depends on the process itself. Many times people who offer most creative solutions are not those with top qualifications. Finally, the most interesting thing is that there is no one design process - every person develops his/her own ideation process.

When do we use design thinking?
Believe it or not, most of our creative thinking can be qualified as design thinking. The exceptions are scientific thinking and artistic thinking. Anything in between can be considered design thinking.

Why don’t we use it more often?
When faced with different ideas people tend to become confused, scared, even paralysed with the multitude of choices that open before them. Some people may think that they lack information or knowledge to tackle the problem, or they may be discouraged in the middle of the thinking process due to a new situation on the ground. When faced with uncertainty, people tend to see barriers instead of challenges and they feel that solution is far beyond their reach. Most people look for creative ideas only when they have a problem that needs a solution - if things are working fine, why bother and look for innovation. Also, looking from the outside, this way of thinking may seem complicated and confusing so people choose rather not to get involved in the process in the first place.

Design thinking is the key to innovation
If you take a look into history books you will realize that some of the most important innovations were created through design thinking. In the past people had limited insights into how things work due to the lack of scientific knowledge and technical equipment. Many of them had to rely on their intuition and creative thinking to come up with the designs that will fit the solutions. In this respect we can say that our whole civilisation was built upon design thinking of people who had the courage to passionately search for new ideas.




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If you wish to further explore this topic, you can check out the selection of my favourite books about creative thinking.


Key words for this blog post:
creative thinking, design thinking, problem solving skills, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, creative problem solving, thinking creative, thinking skills, creativity and innovation.

1 comments:

design_researcher said...

Thank you - this article helped me clarify some questions I had about all the different types of thinking that are being referred to.

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