Design Thinking – Hype or Revolution?

Design Thinking a revolution or just hype? My suggestion, read the bit of knowledge listed below and answer the question yourself.

Knowledge bites 1 – Design Thinking is not a method
In contrast to many other innovation methods, Design Thinking is not a method in the classical sense – Design Thinking is an approach to solving problems and developing new ideas. So it is more than just a method.
PS: In this context, problem solving does not necessarily always have to have an innovation context.

Knowledge bites 2 – Design Thinking must be translated correctly
The correct translation of “Design Thinking” must be: “Thinking like an inventor”. One could also say that the developers of Design Thinking have looked closely at how successful inventors and developers have proceeded to bring their discoveries to light. One of the key findings was that no inventor begins directly with the idea generation process – they all begin by thoroughly understanding the given challenge.

Knowledge Bits 3 – The Three Basic Principles
Design Thinking is based on three essential, equally important basic principles or components: Team, space and process. Only when all three components become visible in the work with Design Thinking is it Design Thinking. And if not, you should call what you do differently.

Knowledge bites 4 – The assumption
Design Thinking is based on the assumption that problems can be solved more efficiently if people from different disciplines and teams work together in a space that promotes creativity, develop a question together, take into account the needs and motivations of customers, and then design concepts that are tested and modified several times (pivoting). The method is based on the work of inventors and developers, which is understood as a combination of understanding, observation, brainstorming, refinement, execution and learning.

Knowledge bites 5 – Team
The leading approach here is exclusively multidisciplinary work with people from at least 3 to 5 disciplines, departments or teams. So if only people from one team use Design Thinking, it is not Design Thinking.

Knowledge Bits 6 – Space
An example of a room ideally suited for Design Thinking can be found on the website of the Hasso Plattner Institute or if you search for “Creative Workspaces” on Google. The focus here is very much on a flexible room concept with movable furniture. A book recommendation at this point is the work “Design Thinking – Das Handbuch”, published by Frankfurter Allgemeine Buch. This book also deals with the topic of “creative spaces” in great detail.

Properties of creative spaces are e.g..:

Encouragement to interact,
Stimulation of creativity,
free choice of workplace,
Workstations for co-creation,
large tables and work surfaces,
Sources of inspiration like libraries,
natural and direct light.

Knowledge bites 7 – Process
The third pillar is an iterative work process consisting of the phases understanding, observing, synthesizing, idea generation, prototyping and testing. It is important to know that this process also has different variants. Design Thinking does not fundamentally determine which micro methods are used in the individual phases. Here you can choose from hundreds of methods and model your own process.

Knowledge Bits 8 – Scaling
Design Thinking can be scaled flexibly and applied outside the innovation corridor. From two-day short workshops to months of intensive strategic project scenarios, everything is conceivable here and is also lived in practice.

Knowledge bites 9 – Design Thinking is not new
This thesis is immediately substantiated when one looks at Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, for example. Their work already followed the same principles. Everything always begins with a deep understanding and intensive observation. Leonardo, for example, spent weeks drawing water vortices in order to understand the water and its transport exactly. Only then are conclusions drawn and the creative work begins.

Prototyping and testing corresponds to the fact that works of art have been changed and painted over again and again during their creation. Inspiring spaces and multidisciplinary work were also tested at that time. Both can be found for example in the art school of our namesake Andrea del Verrocchio. At that time, artists of different disciplines worked together interactively in large inspiring rooms.

With inspiring greetings,
Benno van Aerssen

PS: My answer to the question from the beginning is: It’s definitely not hype if it was already being used in the Renaissance. But Design Thinking can only be a revolution for your company if you see and use it holistically – and not just as a method.