I did not say that. Natasha Jen did. She is a designer who has given some provocative presentations under this title. It’s worth seeing one of them.
What Jen is doing is what not many people has dared to: to call out the worship of Design Thinking as the best thing after the invention of sliced bread and a solution for all ills of mankind. Its simplicity has always been one of its attraction: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. And its blessing and embracing by big names from Stanford to Ideo has given this field immense visibility.
A whole paraphernalia of terms, a dialect jungle, from ‘seducible moments’ to ‘summative testing’ dominate the practice, together with what Natasha Jen jokes about, a huge dose of 3M Post-its.
I don’t think Design Thinking is totally bullshit, just a little emperor getting cold because it has thin clothes. After all ,having the end user in mind and having a process to listen to them and create accordingly can’t be bad. Jen’s contention is that designers do that and have been doing so for ever without the need to have process with steps and outcomes.
The huge popularity of Design Thinking may be due to the need we all have to have maps, a process that gives us the comfort that we are following the path of others. As a map, Design Thinking does the job well. However, there are many people who just simply attach the term ‘Design Thinking’ to anything they do in an attempt to legitimise a task or a consulting project, or a set of skills.
What do you do? Such and such and Design Thinking. For me, this is a bad business card.
Design Thinking is going to stay around for a bit longer, for as long as people needs those maps. It does the trick but legitimises nothing if what is behind has no intellectual solidity.
Watch that video if you can
When I was a lean coach, I received a lot of comments about all “the Japanese words” and processes that were used. It made me think : would it be useful to translate all to Dutch, to ditch the set approach and just make 3M rich?
Eventually I concluded “no” for two reasons
– It’s handy to have a shared vocabulary. There’s difference between telling your director to “walk around on the floor and learn what people are doing and how he can help” and “to have a gemba”. In the last situation, he knows what is expected and he can share experience with other gemba walkers.
– Explaining a process, an approach, a let’s do it this way made me vulnerable as facilitator. What if it didn’t went as expected? What if it wasn’t all that clear? Putting the process on brown paper, putting it against the wall, made it an object. Something that could be discussed and clarified without pointing at people.
I don’t object the conclusion that designers work by design (no pun intended) with the end customer in mind. Yet – if they need to collaborate and communicate, a shared understood vocabulary and objectified process add a tremendous value.