Impressions

by Cochran

Design Thinking: Methodology, Mindset or What?

Chamber musicians perform trio sonata

Image via Wikipedia

During the past several years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time exploring design thinking. I’ve read inspiring and insightful books and blogs on the subject, heard in-person keynotes by design thinking experts including Claudia Kotchka and Roger Martin, attended a design thinking conference, engaged in numerous online discussions around the topic and have had many face-to-face conversations with others on this often elusive topic.

My still looming question: Is design thinking a methodology, a mindset or something else?

David Kelley, a founder of IDEO and co-founder of the d.school program at Stanford, in a video interview with Reena Jana of Business Week, stated that design thinking can be learned. Design thinking is not a new methodology, according to Kelley, “it used be to be called design.” Companies are finally recognizing the value of design and many are working to make design thinking part of their corporate DNA.

I tend to agree with Kelley in that design thinking can be learned. But, at the same time, I feel that design thinking is a mindset. According to the World English Dictionary, mindset is defined as “the ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation, especially when these are seen as being difficult to alter.” If this is an accurate definition, then I’m convinced that design thinking also falls into mindset mode.

OK, so design thinking is both methodology and mindset. But, which comes first? How does one acquire the design thinking mindset?

In my case, design thinking has been a way of life for as long as I can remember. At the age of 10, I (luckily) embarked on a path towards becoming a serious classical musician. That meant years and years of developing both sides of my brain and, just naturally, blending analytical thinking with intuitive thinking.

Of all the arts, music is the one which best grooms the mind in that hybrid way. During tens of thousands of hours in the practice room, a musician taps into a blended skill set of analysis and intuition. In learning a new piece or re-learning a piece from our past repertoire, we prototype hundreds of times. That prototyping is done alone, with a teacher, in rehearsal and then again during each actual performance of the work. Whether in a chamber music ensemble or in an orchestra, the nimble musician combines what he has analyzed with what he has prototyped and then adds the layer of intuitive thinking so necessary when interacting with other musicians onstage.

So, for some, design thinking seems to come naturally. Design thinking is a blend of years of learning, prototyping and doing.

What are your thoughts? Are there other fields of study that naturally train us in design thinking? I’d like to hear from you.

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March 6, 2011 - Posted by | business, creativity, design, design thinking, Innovation, music, prototyping | , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Nice Post Rebecca, I think the trouble with design thinking is exactly what Kelly describes as “Companies are finally recognizing the value of design” – they kind of miss the point and it becomes something that organisations want to ‘add on’, similar to social media, “we need to get some of that social media stuff, and while were at it lets have some design thinking…”. When really they should be inviting creatives up to the top table to actually challenge the way they do business.

    Comment by justifieddesign | March 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comments, Nick. I wholeheartedly agree with you, especially your last sentence. Oh, and by the way…why do we now have to call it design “thinking”? Why use two words when one will do?

      Comment by cochrancreates | March 6, 2011 | Reply


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