What is Design Thinking? Musings of a business consultant, Part 2

19 Nov 2009|Leigh Marinner

Cheskin is ahead of the curve on thinking about what Design Thinking is, even if we are still working it out ourselves. Our approach building on the design literature’s four quadrant model to show how we move from “What Is” to “What Could Be” seems clearer than most of what I heard at the Pecha-Kucha talk at the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley on the Accenture annual award winning paper on “Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking,” by Sara Beckman and Michael Barry.

A number of leading lights talked for 6 minutes and 40 seconds each on What is Design Thinking? Speakers included Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk; John Edson, President, Lunar; John Jamieson, Design Lead and Dept. Manager, Design & Innovation, Clorox; Barry Katz, Professor, CCA and Associate Professor, Stanford Art Department; Peter Lawrence, Chairman, Corporate Design Foundation; Lara Lee, Principal, Jump Associates; Peter Merholz, President, Adaptive Path; and Elizabeth Windram, Senior User Experience Designer, Google.

No one on this panel agreed on what Design Thinking is, and several people said there was no such thing.

Mostly people talked about industrial product design. If that is Design Thinking, then it is just a fashionable term to describe good technique for product design. It underestimates the real value that looking at a business problem from different points of view, and using analytical as well as generative and visual thinking, can provide.

We’re all too familiar with the consulting project that gives back pretty much what was expected, because the consultants didn’t think outside the box and imagine different scenarios or trends that might change the industry, or didn’t look at it from the point of view of a different player who could change industry dynamics.

One thing I’ve learned by working at Cheskin AV on integrating the three practices of Customer Insight, Design Thinking, and Business Consulting is that good consultants and good design thinkers and good researchers are already integrating these tools to a greater or lesser extent. And we’re continually learning from each other and incorporating different approaches in our work.

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