Design Thinking is easy, so why do we suck at it ?

I have been part of the Design Thinking (DT) discipline for some years now, and the more I work on it, the more I realize I’m a DT student with no option to graduate.

Here are some of my observations about what’s happening in the DT ecosystem now:

1. So many design thinkers who know the process, have no remote connection to empathy. No, it’s not enough to just say ‘EMPATHY’. If you’re an a*hole you are not human-centric (thank you, Robert Sutton, for the ‘The No Asshole Rule’ book), and you cannot be a good design thinker. How do you know if you’re one? Simple, if you’re not a kind person, you just FAILED. If you make others feel stressed, FAIL. The converse would mean that folks enjoy your presence, ask you questions, and wanna follow you or at least be part of the same tribe. Design thinkers lead with controlled emotions (and no, the bipolar outbursts of positive and negative emotions are another FAIL), and they are also very sensual.

2. Everyone is trying to recreate/rebrand the typical Stanford steps (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test). Why? If the intention is to make it more readable, then do it…but really, are these 5 steps above so difficult to understand. Rather than spending the time to put your own stamp on what’s already good, why not just start using it as is and add your own flavor to the underlying techniques?

3. Creativity is undervalued. I don’t know why many DT practitioners just breeze through the creativity phase of DT. Plain ideas often suck. Let’s admit it, we were trained to not be creative. Is this what we think: creativity equals risk, creativity is the absence of order, creativity is fun, and fun at work is evil? Here is what Frederik Pferdt, head of innovation and creativity programs at Google says: “What is happening in most organizations is that people lose the ability to not just come up with ideas, but the courage to share those ideas with each other with pride…We are trying to establish an environment where people can share ideas which might not be finished, might not be perfect, but are attempts to start disrupting things, to start a discussion of things that may be impossible at the moment”. Thank you for saying this Mr. Pferdt. If you are not applying a few creativity techniques to stimulate your ideation, you are cutting corners.

4. Designer’s mindset does not end with delivering a winning prototype. You want to see the product not only all the way to when it reaches all customers, but even after. The wealth of ideas, either direct or lateral opportunities, and so many other lessons come at this stage. So, why wouldn’t one wanna be part of that? Call it Lean Startup or whatever you want and just do it (Lean Startup Meets Design Thinking:

5. Just because you have applied Design Thinking does not make the outcome magical. Let’s face it, DT is not as ‘magical’ as some portray it to be. It’s a scaffolding to bringing human emotions, playfulness, childlike creativity and spontaneity to business. The key word here is scaffolding. Even the best support of such kinds may still result in dull outcomes if the framework is not supported by cool methodologies, and if it doesn’t come from the heart.

6. I was recently in the midst of a very stressful preparation for the DT workshop. The so-called leader made it so unpleasant that by the time the workshop kicked-off, I was burned out. If you are not happy while doing DT, something is off. When you’re are making people’s life easier by addressing their needs, you should be proud and happy. I cannot imagine a better purpose in life. Don’t let the ‘process’ drive your DT tribe. It’s a loose guideline, as any framework should be, so add your own flare to it, invent your own creativity and prototyping techniques…HAVE FUN!

I’m very curious about your DT observations and thanks for giving me these few minutes of your life…

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