10 Secrets of Design Thinking


  • Today a mountain of confusion exists in the marketplace around the subject of Design Thinking in part due to the often misleading repackaging of narrow-focused product, service, and experience design methods as broadly focused “Design Thinking.”
  • As of 2020, approximately 80-90% of the methods being positioned as “Design Thinking” are in actuality product, service, and experience design methodologies.
  • Often not being made clear in the marketplace, is that product, service, and experience methods are assumption-boxed methods. They contain baked-in assumptions regarding both the challenge paths and the solution paths. Such methods are valuable and most suited to contexts where the challenges have already been determined and involve product, service, and/or experience.
  • Often not being made clear in the marketplace is that the starting point for assumption-boxed methods is typically a framed or semi-framed challenge in the form of a “Design Brief.”
  • The notion of “Reframing” within assumption-boxed methods typically means reframing within the assumption track… as in reframing functionalities. In such methods, “Reframing” seldom involves rethinking outside the original assumption track.
  • It is widely recognized that the arenas of complex organizational and societal change-making require methods that at the outset, are free of baked-in assumptions regarding what the challenge paths and solution paths might be.
  • A significant gap exists between the notion of highly complex problems – sometimes referred to as “wicked problems”- and the actual, assumption-boxed methods being marketed as Design Thinking today.
  • Adding to the mountain of confusion many of the graduate design academies have for some time been teaching that philosophy is the same as methodology and thus the marketplace contains many folks who have been thus indoctrinated. Today in the marketplace, the broad design philosophy is often sold as methodology.
  • Adding to the marketplace confusion, most versions of Design Thinking contain only the explicit aspects of the approach and are missing the deeper tacit knowledge that comes from formal design education and years of practical work experience. Adding even further complexity, the tacit aspects of knowledge that are most present within the industry are primary from Design 1 and Design 2 Arenas.

Source: GWFM Research

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