Pushback on design thinking

I see that Dave Snowden is having a bit of a go at (at least some forms of) design thinking. He’s questioning whether it really is as radically different as its advocates appear to suggest.

As I have said at more conferences than I care to think of going through a linear process in shorter cycles or drawing it as a circle does not make it non-linear.

I am wary of the way design thinking is sometimes championed so I’m pretty interested in Dave’s viewpoint, at the risk of co-creating an overwhelming force field of curmudgeonliness.

Dave’s second post on the topic goes deeper, challenging what seems a common assumption in the design thinking approach:

One of the claims.. is that design thinking focuses on solution rather than hypothesis and it is a useful distinction.  The problem I have is the word solution is that it implies a prior known problem and if you look at every example I have seen in design thinking presentations they make claims about providing imaginative solutions to defined problems.

This puts me in mind of Keith Sawyer’s distinction between problem-solving and what he calls problem-finding approaches – where people don’t start with a defined problem but allow problems to be defined as part of the process.

I think what goes on in groups is much less linear than most processes can really capture. This game often surfaces our tendency to render as linear that which isn’t – even in accomplishing an apparently simple goal. I’ll be reading what else Dave has to say with interest.



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