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Design Thinking
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Design Thinking

What now matters is the design and delivery of value. That needs design thinking. That needs creative thinking. Judgment thinking alone is not going to be enough. Most people, in business and elsewhere, have done very well on judgment thinking. Such people are rarely aware of the need for 'design thinking'. They find it difficult to conceive that there is a whole other aspect of thinking that is different from judgment thinking. It is not that such people are complacent. It is simply that they do not know that there is another aspect to thinking. —Edward de Bono, 2003

As with design, there’s probably no one definition of design thinking everyone would agree on. What distinguishes designers is what Diego Rodriguez (2007) calls “design thinking” which is analytic thinking complemented with the unique way that designers think. Design thinking is evidence-driven, includes holistic thinking with an integrative view, emphasizes experimentation, and permits intuitive thinking and optimism.

To David Burney (2007), design thinking is a term to define a way of thinking that produces transformative innovation. “While the term feels trendy, the way of thinking is hardly new. One can think of the cave painters in Lascaux 25,000 years ago as design thinkers-- they first began to collect data about the world they experienced, express that data by creating visual stories, document those stories in a way that could be shared into the future, and use that data to create new and innovative ways to solve their problems. The creation of alphabets thousands of years later is an example of design thinking”.

As such, design thinking can be attributed to an improved future. Unlike critical thinking, which is a process of analysis and is associated with the deconstruction of ideas, design thinking is a creative process based around the construction of ideas. Not allowing judgments, design thinking eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation. Non-routine, out-of-box ideas are welcome, since these often pave the way for the most creative solutions. Every individual is designer, and design thinking is a process of applying design methodologies to miscellaneous life situations.

Roger Martin (2006) sees design thinking as the source of next competitive advantage. He distinguishes between two fundamental kinds of thinking which co-exist and often collide in business organizations: analytical thinking and design thinking.

Along the same lines, Cagan and Vogel (2002) make distinction between the way engineers and designers think. Their research findings indicate that for the designers, shape and aesthetics drive the design process whereas for the engineers, cost and complexity drive the process. Cagan and Vogel call these differences in perception as “perceptual gaps”. Perceptual gaps are the differences in perspectives that team members have that stem-from discipline-specific thinking and prevent teams from developing an integrated interests-based conflict resolution process.

Cagan and Vogel’s (2002) research identifies several causes of perceptual gaps. One can be attributed to differences in education. “Engineers are trained to know what is “right”. They use physics and math to model, understand, and eventually control their environment. They recognize what can be done and what can’t be done, based on their understanding of how the world works. They think in terms of function where form is often secondary. They focus on performance, quality and manufacturing. Designers on the other hand, are primarily visual thinkers, trained to explore and think about what should be, not what is. They are limited only by their imagination and influenced by the human side of the world around them. They have a good understanding of manufacturing but are comfortable pushing the limits if doing so allows them to better express their forms. Their understanding of quality is about aesthetics, playfulness, being surprising and addressing to emotions.

Bearing in mind our project of locating design thinking in the postmodern organization, and considering all the complementary descriptions above, we define design thinking as a distinctive process of mind which manifests itself in shape, configuration or composition of pattern or color containing performance (functionality), image (aesthetics, look, feel) and style (a manner of doing things, especially in a fashionable way) to produce a product, process, service, user experience, or an organic change


ilipinar et al, 2011, China-USA Business Review

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