Monday, June 20, 2016

The problem with 'crash courses' in design thinking

It is obvious that 'design thinking' as an approach to change has never been more popular than now. Everywhere on the web it is possible to find workshops and courses, and even 'crash courses' that will make anyone understand and appreciate the 'methodology' of design thinking. This is an unfortunate development. No one will be able to think and act as a designer after a 'crash course'. But this is not what I see as the problem with this development. The major issue is that it will lead a large number of people to believe that 'design thinking' is some kind of simplistic step-by-step method that is possible to apply to all kinds of situations and problems. The inevitable consequence will be a large number of people frustrated with what they think is 'design thinking' and they will turn to some other approach with the hope for another quick fix.

There are no quick fixes. There is no simple approach that is possible to understand and learn in a 'crash course'. As with any human approach that has evolved over centuries design is not something that you can 'use'. It is obvious to most people that a 90-minute 'crash course' in the scientific methodology is not going to make it possible to conduct any form of advanced or even useful science. "Crash courses' may have their place and a role to play, but it is a way that will make it possible to "take away some of the basic principles of Design Thinking and start to adapt them into your personal and professional routines". 

Design thinking can of course be learned. But it takes time, training and practice. And instead of 'learning' a stepwise methodology, a 'crash course' may be a way to introduce the foundational ideas behind design as an approach in a way that makes it possible to understand what it is, how it differs from other approaches and what it takes to actually perform design thinking. However, this requires maybe a bit more by those who offer these courses than what is the case today.

6 comments:

Jonathan Partlow said...

Short to the point and spit on.
"That is an unfortunate development..."
That part, in particular, speaks to the integrity (wholness or completeness) of the worldview of "design thinking".
More precisely, it shines a spotlight on the lack of understanding of a holistic approach.

Crash courses in siloed spaces can teach steps, processes and can even produce templated maps to follow or a framework to be used / misused.

They can be very effective in creating technicians that know how to use a tool or set of tools.

it is unfortunate, that "design thinking" as a craft has become an ambiguous catch all for such things.

Like, it's as if a tool or process is viewed as the thing itself. It should be no surprise that this is a consequence. The lack of distinctions, a vocabulary that is borrowed from or non-existent creates the space for such things to occur.

Also too, the propagation of the T shaped person in hiring and expectations would of course promote a "crash course" approach as the value to the marketplace is systemically being represented as a just learn this one skill set type of approach. It's a very Frederick Taylor / assembly line application which does not foster a holistic approach.



Harold Nelson said...

Erik's point is well made. 'Design Thinking' as repackaged by IDEO ('Creative Problem Solving' first formulated by Alex Osborn in the middle of the last century) has become the default brand for the consulting group and camp followers. Others have used the term 'design thinking' but it is now linked only to Stanford D School and IDEO.

Design thinking is not the same thing as design as practiced in a variety of traditions and professions. The brand 'design thinking' requires no particular skills, time commitment nor experience. This is why it is so popular among so many in the public market.

'Design Thinking'—the brand—can be experienced in short intensive workshops (crash courses etc.) but that does not lead to any sort of competence or capacity in designing.

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Yujia Zhao said...

There are so many "crash courses" on UX design too, which in my opinion, milk the current hype and the lack of good talent in the industry. We need more articles like this to shine some lights on the unreal expectations and the wishful thinking of getting a quick fix.

-Yujia Zhao

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