Design Thinking or the misunderstanding of the “all designers” – What if you start off on the right foot, with the right approach?

Design Thinking or the misunderstanding of the “all designers” – What if you start off on the right foot, with the right approach?

Design Thinking or the misunderstanding of the “all designers” – What if you start off on the right foot, with the right approach? 1000 718 Use Design

Have you already tried the Design Thinking approach in your business projects? Have you ever attempted to change the way you approach the design of your products and services? Were you trying to improve the way your teams mindset to drive innovation? And you found the result to be disappointing? It’s probably for a very simple reason: One should take into account the human, business and technological contexts in determining the best approach to follow, not just applying a recipe or follow someone’s preference for “whatever famous approach”. This is true whether it is for design thinking, sprint design or design fiction. It is therefore essential to know the strengths and weaknesses of various methodologies. It is also important to try to master several of them, otherwise one is exposed to the risk of Maslow’s “golden hammer”.

© illustration – Lucie Ravard

“It is tempting, if you have a good hammer, to treat all problems as if they were nails” – The golden hammer of Maslow

That’s why I would like to debunk the myth about design thinking, which has spread in recent years:  Practicing design thinking would transform its practitioners into full fledged designers. 🤔 Actually, the real statement of design thinking is that creativity is not just for designers.

Let me explain. First of all, design thinking describes a state of mind that translates into a creative approach to problem solving through collaboration (which, by the way, has sometimes been used in other fields of activity like crafts, engineering, etc.). It is about helping, encouraging and supporting the stakeholders to be creative and above all to develop their creative confidence.  This last subtlety is crucial. It does not encourage people to become designers, but to adopt a comparable way of thinking so that buried creativity can flourish. It therefore encourages everyone to shift from an assertive state of mind to one of questioning (Why is it like this? How could we…?). To achieve this, it is necessary for everyone to think creatively about their own field of expertise. This is the famous “think out of the box”. Design Thinking therefore aims to group people with different profiles and areas of expertise so they can tackle complex subjects by questioning the status quo of current answers. We share to all, but each one remains “owner” of his or her expertise. Let’s take the example of a designer who has to design a mission management application for airline pilots – this would also be true for the design of an educational ecosystem for young children, or the follow-up of patients after an operation. During his work, the designer will develop skills and knowledges of the pilot’s profession. He will gradually acquire relevant technical vocabulary, discover and reveal to stakeholders the challenges, constraints and motivations of pilots. He will present the workflows of the business, in accordance with simplified and simplifying models. Finally, he will probe elements that are surprising to him, from an external standpoint or in relation to his experiences in other fields.

But he won’t become a full-fledge pilot, because it takes training, actual practice of this training and therefore experience, meaning: time.  However, he will have taken a step towards the profession, and, to some extent, he will be able to put himself in the place of a pilot, understand him and collaborate with him, in order to design more efficiently and effectively.

The opposite is also true: when pilots participate in co-creation workshops, they may be invited to brainstorm new features, and sometimes they may even be encouraged to design or prototype their ideas, etc. They will therefore discover the designer’s tools and methods. They will be able to look at something that they would never have questioned before, with a fresh eye.

But they will not have become actual designers. it is also necessary to receive training, to practice repeatedly over time, on different projects, context and domains. 

However, in truly collaborative exchanges, magic happens: the pilots realize that they could do a specific business task differently; the designers realize that “this great idea” of interaction proposed by one pilot could be very interesting to test. To make this work, it is necessary to ensure that responsibilities are clearly allocated to each party. In the end, the guardians of the pilot’s craft are the pilots, and the guardians of the design are the designers. All this is possible when there is mutual respect and trust. To conclude, if you did not achieve the desired result the first time, start by getting rid of the idea of failure and see it as a way to progress. Then ask yourself the following question: Isn’t it just a question of rebalancing each member’s role in the team? Or should not you modify or adjust your approach to better address the context of your project?  

Vivien Gauthier —  Associé, Business & Design Strategist @ Use Design, a design agency in Paris that brings innovative strategies, digital products and innovative services.


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