A common critique of design thinking is that it generates a flood of ideas that don’t often get implemented. This is typically the outcome of one off workshops — 2 days of brainstorming and everyone has a fun time.
We’ve got to understand a few things:
1. Strategic design is an approach… it can’t be done in 2, 5 or 7 days. It needs to be embedded in the organization’s mindset and processes — only then is there scope to go beyond the “Discovery”. That’s when the hard work and results start to show.
2. Design thinking has often been tagged to just problem solving. In reality, it’s in equal parts about context setting and problem solving. Context setting points to“problem finding” — taking a holistic approach to understanding the ecosystem within which the agents, events and causes lie. It’s about discovering interconnections and studying them to see what needs to be addressed — the real problem can be found in these relationships and that’s when solving begins.
3. An effective strategic design intervention oscillates between meta and matter — the strategy and the artefact. We are used to a linear progression — building a strategy and then implementing it — this can lead to a very long cycle of iteration. Strategic design on the other hand operates in the area of ambiguity — nothing is the gospel truth, unless it is tested — in shorter progressive cycles. The strategy and the the artefact are developed quickly and constantly, feeding into each other, informing each other and building on each other. Just strategy without product is a loose cloud, just product without strategy means repeating the patterns that have caused the issue — the key to getting it right is to adopt an appetite for constant learning and synthesis.
4. Analysis tells you how things are, whereas synthesis tells you how things could be. We need to aim for more synthesis — without getting caught up in the cycle of analytical research. We need to realise that while quantitative data is good, humans are inherently messy. Synthesis with the meta and matter approach considers data analytically and also closely works with human intentions — synthesising the two into a veritable solution. This needs rigor.
The constant interplay between divergence and convergence is what makes strategic design effective.
Have you experimented with design thinking or are you thinking of trying it out? Do share your views and experiences.