Evolution of design thinking

In 2006, what was design thinking? (see more at Luke Wroblewsky‘s blog)

Roger Martin

When it comes to innovation, business has much to learn from design. The philosophy in design shops is, ‘try it, prototype it, and improve it’. Designers learn by doing. The style of thinking in traditional firms is largely inductive – proving that something actually operates – and deductive – proving that something must be. Design shops add abductive reasoning to the fray – which involves suggesting that something may be, and reaching out to explore it.

Tim Brown

Because it’s pictorial, design describes the world in a way that’s not open to many interpretations. Designers, by making a film, scenario, or prototype, can help people emotionally experience the thing that the strategy seeks to describe.

Jeanne Liedtka

Design thinking is synthetic. Out of the often-disparate demands presented by sub-units’ requirements, a coherent overall design must emerge. Design thinking is abductive in nature. It is primarily concerned with the process of visualizing what might be, some desired future state and creating a blueprint for realizing that intention. Design thinking is opportunistic: the designer seeks new and emergent possibilities. Design thinking is dialectical. The designer lives at the intersection of often-conflicting demands – recognizing the constraints of today’s materials and the uncertainties that cannot be defined away, while envisioning tomorrow’s possibilities.


Now in 2010, what is design thinking?

I recently came across a carefully written post at Core 77 about design thinking. It was done by Kevin McCullagh and titled as “Design thinking: Everywhere and Nowhere, Reflections on The Big Re-Think.”

In fact, design thinking always meant different things to different players. For some it was about teaching managers how to think like designers; for others, it was about designers tackling problems that used to be the preserve of managers and civil servants; and for others still, it was anything said on the subject of design that sounded smart. To most, it is was merely a new spin on design. All its proponents were, however, united by their ambition for design to play a more strategic role in the world than ‘making pretty.’ Who could argue with that?

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