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Design Thinking [Design
Posted on March 31, 2017 @ 09:03:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Tim Brown is the CEO of the design consultancy IDEO. This is a highly respected design consultancy that does design work for the biggest for-profit and non-profit organizations in the world. You have likely encountered the results of their work in your everyday life.

In 2009, Tim published a book called Change By Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation that provided some insight into how they go about their work. Central to that work is what Tim refers to as Design Thinking and that term has become associated with this book. I acquired Tim's book when I started reading Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams (2016, 2nd Ed.) and they gave this book significant credit for their approach. Also, Design Thinking is offered as a way innovative organizations might structure their work with many leading companies adopting some of his suggestions.

One of the shortcomings of some business writing on design is that is it not done by leading designers and can only offer limited insight and vocabulary to talk about design. That is not an issue here. The book offers a perspective on design that is worth reading about. It limits design thinking to a unit called The Project rather than, say, a research program in a university that does not have such clear boundaries. It usually starts with a Design Brief that spells out what the constraints of the design problem are in such as way that it is not too detailed (thereby closing down design options) or too vague (providing too little direction). A good design brief kicks of a good design process. Design thinking involves three overlapping stages or spaces referred to as inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Design thinking recognizes a tradeoff between efficiency and innovation. You have to explore ideas that sometimes go nowhere to find ideas worth keeping. Design thinking acknowledges that the constraints of the design problem may be contradictory and that design thinking is needed to find the proper balance among the constraints. Design thinking involves the participant in the design process, not just the officially appointed designer.

These are some of the useful ideas about Design Thinking that I have culled from the book so far into my reading of it (1/3 of the way through this quick-to-read book). I've read enough, however, to recommend the book as one worth reading for anyone with an interest in design. The book also preceded Eric Reis' book The Lean Startup (2011) and provides context for understanding where some of the major ideas in that book came from.

You can follow Tim Brown's thinking on his Design Thinking blog and on various YouTube videos such as this Ted Talk.

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