Design Thinking Experts Fill In Gaps Between Steps

How do you identify the best Design Thinkers? Separate the men from the mice?

They can fill in the gaps between the steps.

Design Thinking has been expressed as codifying how designers think. However, when a process gets codified, the tendency is to simplify it for the purpose of understanding. Just google “design thinking process” (screenshot below) and you get a whole eyeful of examples with 3,4,5,6…steps.  This makes the process rather academic.

Design Thinking Process

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing as it gets more people into design thinking.  However, a lot of the true value or impact of design thinking gets lost in this simplification.  This often results in design thinking misuse, for example, including design thinking as part of a toolkit in the Lean process. (Ouch!)

The serious DT practitioners, including the “classical” designers, know that there is a lot more required if you want to use design thinking to solve complex problems or create successful solutions.  Much more than what you see articulated in the processes found on Google.

The process is really not linear. In fact, it is rather chaotic. Breakthrough ideas can actually come from any part of the process. You can see that some to express this through multiple sweeping lines, or even zigs and zags. We also give this “expression” a go with our orbital process: essentially a spinning wheel or orbiting planets.

Often, you need to break the design thinking process.  Throw the whole thing out the window!

Kessel Run is like Design Thinking“Oh baby, go make that Kessel run!”  Source: Star Wars.

This could make your design journey far more complicated (or simple) depending on the context of the problem you are trying to solve. The best designers and design thinkers know this. They often use their cognitive flexibility to navigate through this, allowing them to extract meaning when there seems to be none.

The nearest analogy I have on this would be learning to play the piano. When you start, you have to follow a lot of music rules, learn certain chords, play the scales etc. It is only when you achieve a high level of competence (say grade 8) is when you are able to leave the rules behind and play amazing music.

Design Thinking is much like this.  There are certain rules which you follow (the “steps”), but when you move past the rules, (into the “gaps”) this is when you can truly succeed as a Design Thinker. Therefore just like practicing the piano, nothing beats experience in using design thinking to deliver real-world solutions that help businesses achieve sustainable success.   

Now go forth and do, not just think!
 
Love to hear your thoughts, do leave your comments below.

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