Design Thinking
eBook - ePub

Design Thinking

A Guide to Creative Problem Solving for Everyone

Andrew Pressman

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  1. 154 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Design Thinking

A Guide to Creative Problem Solving for Everyone

Andrew Pressman

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About This Book

Design thinking is a powerful process that facilitates understanding and framing of problems, enables creative solutions, and may provide fresh perspectives on our physical and social landscapes. Not just for architects or product developers, design thinking can be applied across many disciplines to solve real-world problems and reconcile dilemmas. It is a tool that may trigger inspiration and the imagination, and lead to innovative ideas that are responsive to the needs and issues of stakeholders.

Design Thinking: A Guide to Creative Problem Solving for Everyone will assist in addressing a full spectrum of challenges from the most vexing to the everyday. It renders accessible the creative problem-solving abilities that we all possess by providing a dynamic framework and practical tools for thinking imaginatively and critically. Every aspect of design thinking is explained and analyzed together with insights on navigating through the process.

Application of design thinking to help solve myriad problems that are not typically associated with design is illuminated through vignettes drawn from such diverse realms as politics and society, business, health and science, law, and writing. A combination of theory and application makes this volume immediately useful and personally relevant.

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Part 1


Design thinking is a skill that may be difficult to acquire but is absolutely learnable. Once acquired, problems begin to look like design problems that you have the potential to solve creatively.
The design-thinking process is framed, clarified, placed in perspective, and thoroughly analyzed in Part 1. This first part sets forth a dynamic template for the process, which can itself be “designed” or customized as a function of a particular challenge. Here, the book begins to unravel some of the mystery and vagueness typically associated with design thinking by clearly examining the process as a whole; identifying and analyzing all the various building blocks or components of design thinking, and determining which components can best be applied or prioritized for a given situation, culminating in a comprehensive master plan that has been driven and shaped by design thinking.
It will be shown that the elements of design can be cherry-picked, refined, weighted, and combined into various hybrids, depending on the problem and its context, to yield a unique process for each problem. Running through a series of elements could be considered completion of a customized loop, which will produce new information and effective ideas—and may either crystallize a solution to a problem, or suggest new questions for yet another loop of inquiry, which will yield more synthetic insight and build on previous ideas.
Part 1 of Design Thinking will also elaborate on various tools and strategies that can nurture curiosity, exploration and discovery, and advance the design-thinking process to arrive at the optimal solutions to which I’ve been alluding. Insights will be offered to help support an open mind in order to further optimize potential as a design thinker.
I would emphasize several points that may become apparent and resonate with readers:
Certain aspects of design thinking may already be familiar, natural, or even automatic for some. If this is the case, then you will have a great advantage in applying the process to the most challenging problems.
The process of design thinking itself can and should be enjoyable, even exciting, in contrast to the ubiquitous, algorithmic, and often superficial goals of rapid gratification with an exclusive focus on self-serving deliverables.
Consider engaging in design thinking as a full-bodied investment in the future of whatever endeavors the design thinker undertakes. Design thinking becomes less daunting and more efficient with an expanding fund of knowledge and experience.
Readers should note the special signposts where many specific design-thinking tactics described in Part 1 are showcased in actual real-life situations in Part 2. This is intended to expressly connect theory and practice.


Design Thinking Overview

Defining Design Thinking

There is no general agreement on a precise definition of design thinking; there are variations across disciplinary cultures, and different meanings depending on its context.1 For example, design thinking in architecture is different from design thinking in a management context. The design process is dynamic, and can be complicated, messy, and nuanced as a function of specific realm and application. Moreover, there are additional layers of mystery associated with creativity itself, hence the challenge inherent in efforts to define it.
Notwithstanding the daunting qualifications noted above, it is imperative to develop a general sense of design thinking—a view from 35,000 feet—in order to set the stage for an explicit delineation of the specific components of the design process. First, here are some general thoughts—design thinking is:
A process that results in a plan of action to improve a situation.
A skill that incorporates situational awareness and empathy into idea generation.
A tool that invokes analytical as well as creative thought to solve problems that consider context, stakeholder requirements and preferences, logistical issues, and cost.
A mindset in which ideas are triggered from diverse, even discrepant, sources, and then built upon to inform progressively better solutions to challenges.
A series of actions and an accumulation of provisional inputs that are structured by a loop in which problems are defined, research and analysis are conducted, and ideas are proposed and then subjected to critical feedback and modification, which in turn leads to repeating parts of the loop to further refine the ideas.
Personally, I would characterize design thinking as a fundamentally creative process that is driven by specific problems and individuals, yet transcends conventional or obvious solutions. While there is no magic formula, I would assert that the components of design thinking can be studied, systematically characterized, and rationally wedded to a process that yields effective and innovative solutions. Focusing and beginning to operationalize, it includes the following building blocks:
Information gathering. Thoroughly research the context and stakeholders to arrive at a deep understanding of all relevant issues, conflicts, and constraints surrounding the problem. Examine historical perspectives, and a range of precedents that might be applicable to the problem. Conduct effective interviews, perform a mini-ethnography, and consult with key knowledgeable people to accelerate understanding. All of this data may provide a richer background that informs the design investigation and may trigger ideas.
Problem analysis and definition. Rigorous analysis is necessary to ensure identification of the most salient problem, which may be masked because of an immediate acceptance of the problem at face value. Question the status quo; question initial assumptions and reframe the problem. Analysis is also a meaningful prerequisite for brainstorming; it results in a clear, orderly, and fine-grained view of the problem from multiple perspectives.
Idea generation. Brainstorming and visioning sessions to create as many ideas—good, bad, and silly—as possible, informed by the information gathered to date together with the problem analysis. Consider and combine various influences to create innovative diagrammatic concepts or outlines of ideas.
Synthesis through modeling. Take the best ideas to a higher degree of resolution and detail, resulting in several alternative prototypes, models, or draft solutions. These vehicles not only serve as good simulations of proposed preliminary solutions but, most importantly, can and should facilitate manipulation, experimentation, and even play. In all cases, regardless of success or failure, learning and discovery are paramount.
Critical evaluation. With this essential step of testing the model, there is an opportunity to make the solution or project better; to validate (or not) concepts and solutions relative to the problem definition by subjecting them to critical appraisal from stakeholders, colleagues, and objective outsiders. Feedback from stakeholders is especially valuable to make meaningful revisions. Embrace constructive criticism from whatever source, make changes without diluting a strong idea, and test again.
Solutions should pass through the above loop of components as many times as appropriate to the ...

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