Monday, November 12, 2012

Book note: Design thinking supporting radically different purposes

On my desk I have for a while had two books that both offer toolkits for design and design thinking. One is aimed at supporting "growths" in terms of business and revenue and one is aimed at developing products and services for communities in need in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With such different purposes, it is interesting to note that what they present as design thinking and the design process is so similar (at least on the surface).

The two books are "Designing for growth -- a design thinking tool kit for managers" by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, and "Human Centered Design Toolkit" by IDEO.

When looking at the table of content for the two books the similarities becomes even more obvious. For instance, it is maybe surprising to learn that the chapter "Develop a sustainable revenue model"is to be found in the IDEO book while "Journey Mapping" is found in the Liedtka & Ogilvie book. Several other topics can be found in both, such as brainstorming, conceptual development, prototyping, etc. Both books also push the idea that thinking designerly is not only about thinking but about doing. They also focus intensely on innovation.

Of course the two books deal with very different settings and challenges and therefore also frame design thinking in different ways. The titles are not only labels, they do tell us about some core values that are reflected all through the chapters. Human centered as a value can be contrasted to the notion of growth. Helping people versus helping companies. But this is also a superficial difference since in both cases (as with all design), at the core is ability to design a sustainable model that makes a design robust when it comes to both finances and use over time.

It would be quite interesting to see a careful analysis and comparison of these two books with the purpose to reveal their fundamental design philosophy and theory, their basic design principles, postulates, and assumptions, and how they are translated into prescriptive guidelines and "toolkits".  If anyone wants to conduct such an analysis, send me the results.

With the growing interest and excitement around design as a human approach to change in so many areas, the possibility for comparative studies of design thinking also increases. Even though it is possible to find some attempts, I think there is a need for many more studies of that sort. I would also like to see studies like that done with much more critical ambitions. For instance, the two books discussed here could, apart from being critically analyzed in the light of the other book, also be analyzed in relation to contemporary design theory and philosophy of design. More work....

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