Every time I come across Design Thinking, it just smells like bullshit - get a bunch of people together, give them post it notes and open walls. IBM’s DT website does not help nor do videos on YT.
What is Design Thinking?
It is good because if you're a design firm you sometimes need an HBR-approved buzzword to get your client, the VP of Marketing, to let you do any kind of user research. But ultimately, like any business concept used primarily to sell in client work and justify it up the ladder, it will be replaced by "whatever the stakeholder wants" when push comes to shove.
Juul serves as a foundational example of design thinking. In the words of the founders, both grads of the Product Design masters program, the concept was not to create an "electronic cigarette" but to annihilate the concept of cigarettes altogether in favor of a true 21st century innovative delivery system. Regardless of your position on the societal ills of underage nicotine dependency, it's a fascinating case study to see how a niche product (Plume, I believe it was called?) for loose-leaf cannabis and extracts dubbed the "iPhone of vapes" evolved into a $15B household brand.
How Juul, founded on a life-saving mission, became the most embattled startup of 2018
I think the real skill involved is Visual Thinking. Good old fashioned pencil and paper flow state ideation. If there is one practice I wish I had spent more time acquiring it would definitely be illustration / drafting ;)
This makes me strongly suspect that Design Thinking is indeed BS.
Quality that starts with the electronics and ends with an appealing form factor and sleek fit and finish. Of course the UX needs to be thoughtful and as least frustrating as possible, which arguably has more to do with your typical interaction design and usability testing methods in the realm of UX design and research.
Juul combined great product design, engineering, product iteration, and support from management from the top down to make the best product possible that is typically seen in design driven companies such as Apple.
I think design thinking definitely has the power to break down silos in organizations with heavy engineering culture but you need the right org chart and executive support to create game changing products no matter how much 'design thinking' goes on behind closed doors. I agree it is a hot marketing buzzword sold to clients to win business as mentioned by others, and that we need to acknowledge the fact that you need executive management support at the highest levels or you're dead in the water.
Was design thinking responsible for the Tesla Model 3, or was it more about innovation in tech and manufacturing combined with quality electrical and hardware engineering + funding driven by a leader with a vision hell-bent on creating a game changing product and fostering a culture conducive to that end goal.
> explain in plain English
doesn't generally mean 'download a deck of cards' from Stanford.
There are tons of competitors in what is effectively a new and disruptive space with tons of potential upside by re-legitimizing nicotine addiction.
For whatever reason, they're winning, but there are so many factors beyond design that I'd be very reluctant to postulate this was the decisive factor.
Marketing, branding, operations, access to large markets, talent, social proximity to 'free press', soft lobbying (i.e. close relationships to various institutions through hiring or serendipity etc.).
Using people who are 'trying to quit smoking and using vaping as a mechanism' is a poor measure of determining the addictivity of vaping because people are already trying to quit.
Personally, I quit 'light smoking' with vaping rather easily.
But then I took up vaping for about a year, and quitting was brutally hard. I was not even a heavy vaper. It consumed my entire body.
Quitting smoking I would get 'pangs' or 'acute' points where I wanted to have a cigarette - if I could get past that, it would be fine. With vaping ... it was like a constant pain. I think this was related to the nature of usage.
And I was using a log mg vape, I could have easily moved up.
Vaping is a really, really bad idea. Though the nicotine addiction is not nearly so hazardous alone, it's far worse or addicting than say, a coffee addiction - particularly for young people this is a bad idea.
After 2 weeks of vaping I wanted to smoke a cig again. It tasted so awful that I instantly stopped smoking cigarettes and continued vaping (I still never intended to stop consuming nicotine, but the positive effects of not smoking were showing pretty immediately)
My coils drifted into the subohm range pretty fast, mechmods and 100W+ boxes was what I needed to produce cubic meters of vape. But upping the volume of vaped liquid allowed me to reduce the relative nicotine contents (improving the taste of the liquid further) up to the point where I started asking myself whom for I'm consuming nicotine.
Stopping to vape was pretty easy at that point.
Never looked back.
It just opens the pandora's box to youth vaping. And also full-on vaping addiction as well.
If I was king I would ban advertising for vaping other than as smoking cessation. In Quebec where I live , you can't even have vaping products in the window. All of the signage and rules are strictly limited, much like the limited packaging on cigarettes.
It's amazing to see that if you separate brand and advertising from a product, how hard it is for companies to be successful. Tells you a lot about human behaviour!
You should visit Europe where smoking doesn't have nearly the amount of stigmatization it does in America.
There are smoking rooms within my office in Germany, and the rooms smell like an American restaurant circa ‘95.
Point being: there's a clear stigma against smoking here, and wherever we're "behind" in terms of pushing back against smoking, we are heading in the same direction.
You hear a lot about design in corporate discourse these days. Visual art tools like mind mapping, whiteboard animation, and even storyboards are getting prime time in the context of business.
This is partly legitimate. Sketching is one of the best ways to understand complex concepts and come up with new ideas. Both are valuable skills. But organizations also love to boast about how much design-oriented they are. Talking about "design thinking" or "mindful design" and so forth doesn't mean anything changed. Fads come and go.
Today techniques like boards, graphs and sketches are making a comeback within companies. How much is hype versus how much is due to people unwilling to focus for a long time on something? Visual concepts tend to get the point across fast. It's great as long as it is not to the detriment of in-depth analysis.
As an illustrator/designer, companies saw you as a disposable executant who made things pretty. That is, versus a writer who was more on the conceptual side of things and understood the overarching strategy. Not sure the designers gained any more respect in the process but that is another story. It will change again.
> How Juul, founded on a life-saving mission, became the most embattled startup of 2018
A life-saving mission? They are currently being banned by the FDA, the organization that Trump just defanged, for their sale of questionably safe products targeted at children.
What flavour should they make that don’t (theoretically) appeal the children? Beer? Anchovies? Broccoli? Mesquite BBQ?
Adults can like bubblegum or sweet and fruity flavours. I know I ask for them from my dentist for my cleanings instead of mint.
The SRITA archive is pretty damning
> His archived Juul ads are filled with attractive young models socializing and flirtatiously sharing the flash-drive shaped device, displaying behavior like dancing to club-like music and clothing styles more characteristic of teens than mature adults.
In a country where you have to be 21+ to get into a club, what club music is characteristic of teens instead of adults?
That strikes me as a pretty low bar. People used to say the same thing about cigarette ads. Which in retrospect were horrific. I once chatted with some people researching at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/
They had story after story about the depravity of the tobacco advertising industry. The one that stuck with me was the advertising campaign targeted at developmentally disabled adults. Once hooked they were very loyal consumers.
And nobody has ever died from nicotine withdrawal. Or smashed their car after inhaling nicotine.
The method of delivery killed those nicotine addicts. None of those nicotine addicts died as a direct result of what nicotine does to the body. Combusting tobacco and inhaling the smoke is what killed them (ignoring chewing or snorting).
If I used a patch, I can continue my nicotine addiction without fear of lung disease. I can't do the same with smoking.
There's no method of delivering a habitual psychoactive dose of alcohol that doesn't cause harm.
But all said and done, I'm not sure vaping nicotine, with all those flavours, has been proven safe. There's a lot of talk about popcorn lung.
Culture is complex and produces inconsistent behavior. That doesn't mean we should try to do better.
IMHO design thinking is just... thinking.
For example, I got to sit in on a 3-day design thinking class at a large financial company. The attendees were from all over the company, from programmers to back-office people to account reps. Many of them had never met a customer in the course of their jobs. The design thinking concepts were deeply alien their normal work. But by half-way through they had a bunch of real users in for the attendees to interview. By the end, they were forced to produce new product ideas and mock-ups.
It was really a revelation to a lot of the people there. Three days was only enough to give them a taste. But it was clear from the talk afterwards that a lot of them could now see why it was worth thinking beyond their designated jobs and really understanding what they were doing from the user's perspective.
if a company treats their (low level) employees like replaceable cogs, and never involve them in decision making, then yes, this does seem like a revelation!
However, this just goes to show that having trust, and empowering employees to be more autonomous and self-directed (with the appropriate amount of compensation based incentives of course) will achieve the same kind of results imho.
A large part of design is validating whatever tool it is that they produce with the people for whom you're building it, and do it again at every step of the process with the intermediate designs - not just as a single upfront gathering of requirements. This is not something that you get from an eat-you-own-dog-food approach.
But when a company grows, I think of it like a sphere. The average distance to a customer keeps increasing. At the beginning, most people have contact with the outside world. But when it's large, most people's lived reality is about other people who work at the company.
And historically, that worked fine for large companies for quite a while. They were doing relatively stable, simple things that could be easily scaled. But things are hopefully changing. There are a lot of people who have spent their lives inside of large companies. Whatever it takes to rehabilitate them is fine by me.
My eyes were opened when I worked on one product. We added scriptability and for 3 years we assumed that would cover a multitude of user requirements. Until I actually tried to implement a customer's solution using it and realised how crap the experience was. 3 years late.
1. A simple way to reqllly focus with many stakeholders or team of people to really think problems thru with the minimal structure possible to get some ideas or potential projects.
2. It is refreshing is a big 4 consulting company used to charge you 6/7 fissures for a strategy you then needed your people to buy in. You are maki g it with them in a day or couple of days. (Iterate caster)
3. Gives a low risk model of getting people to really think customer first, with the problems and potential solutions.
From my own point of view it really works, especially in big traditional enterprises where people have trouble Channing. I hate to say it but is almost magical.
My 0.02 cents.
- abductive thinking
- an iterative process
When I was younger I (foolishly) derided software engineering as 'a way to get code out of people who aren't smart enough to program'. Now I see it like any other power tool - something which lets you do work that you wouldn't otherwise be able to tackle. No matter how smart you are, there's always some problem that's out of your intuitive reach, but which you could solve with a structured approach.
Far too much software has almost no concept of user empathy.
Example: yesterday I installed a new webcam. I was supposed to use a captcha to create a new account, and the captcha kept not working.
After roughly half an hour of searching I discovered that the captcha didn't work in Europe, but it did work if you set the locale to US.
Coincidentally, charges for the webcam cloud backup are much higher in the US.
Did a manager decide to ban the EU and force everyone to use the US pricing? Did they tell the developers to make the change as quickly as possible? Did the developers and the sales team forget to inform users? Did something go wrong somewhere else?
Who knows? As with many products, the user experience was irritatingly hostile and irrational, and the result was a firestorm of one star reviews on the App Store and Amazon.
I have no idea if design thinking could have fixed this problem, but more empathy, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail from the industry as a whole can't possibly be a bad thing.
It is a question of focus. A designer will be all about the users, their experience etc. If they manage to make manufacturing/servicing/etc better at the same time – great! But in doubt they will go with the user.
A sysadmin would be focused on what is easy to maintain and won't create more work down the road.
A lazy person would try to find a solution, that movers the workload to a different entity altogether.
A engineer would mostly be concerned about reusing things that already exist in a clever way, with a aesthetically low standard: "Why are you complaining? It looks just like the thing company X made". It might be more durable, cheaper and a tiny bit more inconvinient to use.
A business person is mostely focused on how much it costs and how much potential sales there are.
A marketing person is mostly focused on the emotional visual part (see bad designer) and if they are good they will figure out what it is the customers like about the product (and if they are bad they make it pink for ladies and metallic with racing stripes for blokes).
All of these "thinking hats" have a reason to exist, but only one is really focused on the details of how the customer will interact with the thing you sell them in a day to day basis. Good designers on top of that will try to take the thing in a historical context: just because it is the way it is right now, doesn't mean it is the way it should (or could) be. The iPhone is a good example.
Ethnography was created because mass marketing started to break down. It broke down because people are not the same.
"Design Thinking" = Bullshit
"Design" + "Thinking" = Designing using modern techniques and practices.
You are better off paying attention to the specific techniques and practices than paying attention to the overall philosophy of "Design Thinking". Some of these techniques are very high leverage.
- Learning how to do proper user interviews is really powerful and a very hard skill to master
- Multidisciplinary groups for design sessions are very effective
- Creating a positive, playful, open environment boosts creativity
- Iteratively converging and diverging on the problem leads to non-trivial solutions
Nothing at all to do with a professional design process however.
It’s isn’t bullshit... I’ve seen people who were close to blows about how to approach a problem come up with a good solution a few hours later through the exercise.
I would say that novelty is powerful, not sure how effective it is after 100x.
What would otherwise be some roadblocked, upset situation with several engineers feeling like they aren't being heard, ends up somehow moving forward through discussion.
At least in my experience, which may be uncommon.
The downside of innovation programs is that they may be just an ineffective attempt to patch over the strict control policies that idiot managers put into place in order to protect the organization from its problem employees.
I wouldn't be surprised if a company sent it's managers on mandatory vacation for 4 weeks every other month and saw an increase in morale, worker productivity, and meaningful innovation.
I've been a part of several Design Thinking workshops, and they always go better than workshops in other formats in my experience.
Everyone sat through it and then one of the ladies turned about and blurted out "it's just thinking! Why is it called Design Thinking?"
In my encounters with design thinking, the controversial "don't" has actually been frequent, iterative release. For some folks, design thinking is a defense of a "measure twice, cut once" waterfall-y approach to product development.
That might make a lot of sense for some things, like physical consumer products, where a ton of branding and manufacturing go into each release. I think it's a bad idea for most software, where the ease of distribution means that you can learn from your market much more dynamically.
It's worked out better than any other process I've been apart of, but it may just be some other factor than it's value. The companies that were open and interested in using it, were often... of a generally higher quality of talent, and perhaps better outcomes is natural no matter what process is used.
The analysis/brainstorming/prototyping/testing cycle (usually what "design thinking" refers to) is burned into many of us just because that's how we've been doing/aspiring to do things for years.
However, you have to remember that's not how a lot of people were doing things, and many of those people (I won't claim all of them, no process is universal) could probably benefit from judiciously adopting the practices.
A lot of people may be "aspiring" to do it but few people actually do it.
I worked at a relatively progressive, design-centric company and even there "design thinking" tended to be relegated to a handful of projects and wasn't the norm/default.
"[On immersion] identify hidden needs by having the innovator live the customer’s experience."
"The final stage in the discovery process is a series of workshops and seminar discussions"
"In the next step, articulation, innovators surface and question their implicit assumptions."
And so on. Design thinking isn't "building a prototype". That is but one small part among many.
You have workshops for everything you build? You do contextual inquiries, sitting in a customer office all day to see what their interactions are like, for every feature you build? You sit down with paper prototypes (not even code yet) with actual customers?
For every single feature you build? Even when a customer just wants a button to sort Column X?
I guess I'm dubious but if you've managed to create a work environment where that's the expectation, then more power to you.
Design thinking is time consuming and expensive. That is why it is rarely used.
If you are a product designer who has 10 to 15 years experience bringing products to market, then IMHO there's not much in design thinking that you have not already seen. But if you are an undergrad or MS student with little work experience then it is a very useful structured thought process centered around product design.
If you are a mechanical design engineer in the sense of Shigley design thinking does not have a lot to offer your work product.
One of the biggest differences between a person like Jack Dorsey who really do understand the value of design and is able to formulate at the C Level and then someone like McKinzey who might just claim they are (or parts of them are) design led but don't really mean it because they don't really understand it is the ability to use sesign as a strategic parameter.
Design Thinking doesn't solve the fundamental issue which is transcendence between analysis and outcome. Someone have to be able to take the insights and turn them into something of value. The analysis is not the value in itself.
Or put another way what Design Thinking doesn't solve is transcendence between idea and execution.
So don't buy the BS and I say that as someone who consult companies on how to use design and design thinking strategically.
Design Thinking to me essentially is user centered design, I don't think you're saying UCD is BS.
What I'm reading is that without getting buy-in from execs, engineering etc - 'design thinking' is useless.
What did you do, so the 'design thinking' piece transcended into execution / desired outcome.
Or did you only work on projects where the value of 'design thinking' was already understood, i.e. design was seen as an executive priority.
Here is a critique I made of UCD back in 2010,
UCD still have the same issue which is that it requires transcendence between insights and solution which is much less solid than what people suggest.
So what I mean with don't buy the BS is don't think that design thinking as a process is going to improve anything for you if you don't have the right people at the right places implementing it and even then it's not actually clear how much value it provides.
> To be successful, an innovation process must deliver three things: superior solutions, lower risks and costs of change, and employee buy-in. Over the years businesspeople have developed useful tactics for achieving those outcomes. But when trying to apply them, organizations frequently encounter new obstacles and trade-offs. <
It is of extreme importance to realize that any proposed solution will have its trade-offs and it will be highly depend upon context and actual implementation.
It’s worrisome to see how many people nowadays, who are in positions of power, jump on the bandwagon of conventional “wisdom”, failing to realize that down the road, adopting blindly current solutions might trickle down into unwanted consequences.
Perhaps social media and the indiscriminate sharing of information, without proper scrutinization and analysis is not helpful either.
Furthermore, people who are critical, are not always expressing their views publicly, out of fear of being labeled a certain way.
One of them was the changing location of the waiting room. It had previously been in a pass-through corridor, making it very busy and noisy, something that wasn't good for people with long-term-sickness such as stress. In fact it was terrible, and such an obvious small fix, but nobody had thought about it before they asked people what could be improved.
The biggest thing they did, was make a cardboard tool for your long-term-sickness plan and journal. In short terms, it's a plan with all the meetings and appointments you're required to go to filled in, with room for comments. Every time you go to an appointment, the case worker and you write down what you discuss and agree on during the meeting, and the case worker fills in the time and place for your next appointment before you leave.
This muniplicity is now significantly better at getting people with long-term-sickness back to health (and work) than every other muniplicity in the country. I can't remember the exact numbers but it's somewhere around 30% which is an insane amount of life quality increased (and money saved). I've seen it in action and I think Design Thinking can be absolutely brilliant. In most cases it's not though. Successes like the one I just describe lead other people to want the same thing, in fact, there is a now national program to utilise Design Thinking in every muniplicity of Denmark. Which is all well and good, except change management isn't easy.
Most muniplicities send one or two employees on a three day course to learn Design Thinking. It's employees who work with lean and other process/project management types, so they're certainly suited, but you don't really learn Design Thinking in three days. That the first problem, the far bigger problem is that nothing changes in the project models we utilise or the way management orders projects. I mean, sure, you can commit your citizens and do a few prototypes and that'll probably improve every project, but you're not really doing Design Thinking if you are still doing the full analysis, the full planning and the full requirement specification for what results you want from a project before you start doing your Design Thinking. This lack of commitment, ownership and focused change management is why Design Thinking is failing in most muniplacities. It's not just Design Thinking, it's also Enterprise Architecture, Digitisation, Benefit Realisation and a wide range of other brilliant tools that fail.
If you're looking for a peak, most of the time you want to climb the gradient rather than descend it. That statement is true even if you suspect there are multiple peaks in the landscape.