kimberley crofts

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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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Filed under: design thinking, , ,

Continuing to learn, post MA study

It has been almost two months since the end of my MA in Information Design and I am already itchy to learn new things. I was hoping that by now I would have a job and be learning new stuff at my workplace but it is near on impossible to find senior design positions in places that are public or sustainability focused. So whilst I am a looking I am swotting up on a couple of things like design thinking, service design, and leadership and strategy (the Open University have some mini-courses on their Creative Choices website aimed at creative people improving their skills in management).

Design thinking: the buzz term of the moment. People like Tim Brown from Ideo have defined and popularized the use of this term which describes a strategic process that designers have pretty much always followed (discover, define, design, deliver as the Design Council describes it to which I would add evaluate but that doesn’t start with D unfortunately).

As publications like Fast Company and Business Week report on its use to the business world I hope that more people will begin to re-evaulate their ideas about what design can do. For more reading, discussion and tips on Design Thinking I have joined a few mini-networks within Wenovski, the Design Thinkers network.

Service design: an expert in the field, Phi-Hong Ha, defines Service Design as “a cross-disciplinary practice that looks at the touch points of a service within the context of a customer’s journey” (from an excellent AIGA interview by Steven Heller). Service designers look at all of the steps involved in a service and use these observations to redesign it to better address the user’s needs whilst continuing to achieve the business objectives of the company or organisation.

Practitioners of service design have achieved some wonderful things in the short amount of time it has existed as a profession. For example, Live|Work (a UK company) helped out-of-work people in Sunderland more successfully access services that would help them find employment. You can read about it on their website. The Design Council has used Live|Work’s experience to explain Service Design as part of a project called ‘Public Services by Design‘. This project will go live in 2010 and aims to help the public sector to use design thinking techniques to improve their services.

Filed under: General Musing, , ,

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