kimberley crofts


an information and communication designer living in London

Design thinking: a combination of ‘what is’ with ‘what could be’

Roger Martin from Canada’s Rotman School of Management encourages his MBA students to practise design thinking which he defines as a combination of analytical and intuitive thinking. The analytical part is the more traditional business way of thinking which studies the current and past business environment in order to make decisions in a reliable way. The intuitive part is the more traditional ‘designerly’ way of thinking that is less quantifiable but more future-looking and imaginative. He calls people who can think this multi-faceted way ‘integrative thinkers’. He puts it very well in saying design thinking is a combination of ‘what is’ with ‘what could be’. You can watch this interview with Martin on Fast Company.

In the interview he contrasts his own business-focused design thinking book with Tim Brown’s which is more from a designer’s point of view. This at first seems obvious knowing that Brown works for one of the world’s leading design firms, but Martin postulates (correctly imo), that many designers do not actually practice design thinking—even though it has the word design in it—hence the need for books like Brown’s that look at the problem through the lense of design.

Is it a problem that designers do not know how to combine strategic business thinking with their own creative practice? Yes. And is this a problem of design education? I think so. It always irked me that the design schools I have attended and taught at are geographically and theoretically isolated from the rest of the university. How can designers and business people learn to work together if they don’t cross paths until after their formative years? There are business schools (such as Rotman, Cass and I am sure many others) that are starting to integrate design thinking into their curriculum, but I don’t know of any design schools that are doing the same. Now there’s a challenge.


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