Design Thinking is Not a Panacea

Following my post Design Thinking & Facilitation, I continued reading and pondering about the concept of 'design thinking'.  I have been a 'practical rather than a theoretical instructional designer', and not a 'design school designer'.  So I am looking at this topic from the outside.

I guess I am interested in design thinking because I am interested in what might help my clients and my students produce better products and services, and better organise the work they do.  I am surprised at some of the criticism I have read about design thinking.  I really like Blanchard and Zigarmi's Situational Leadership Model, but I wouldn't throw out Colonel Tom Kolditz' concept of 'leadership identity', and I recently started teaching adaptive leadership, but I still wont throw out my materials on the other two topics.

Similarly, in strategic planning, stakeholder analysis and SWOT analysis are complementary, not contradictory.

So I cannot see why anyone would treat design thinking as the sole and ultimate solution to business issues.  It is another tool.  (I nearly wrote 'just another tool', but that might devalue design thinking.)

Helen Walters has some excellent things to say on this topic.  She is interested in Steve Jobs' approach to achieving greatness at Apple.  She quotes him as saying, "It isn't the consumers' job to know what they want."  Implying that observation and experience are not sufficient for product innovation and excellence.  But he does not seem to be suggesting that his designers ignore the consumer.

Helen writes "beware the snakeoil salesmen who promise you’ll never take another wrong step again if you buy into design thinking".  This is useful advice.

The need to choose between a range of tools, and to combine them to get a good outcome, seems obvious.  Beware not to fall into 'silver bullet thinking', seeking one tool to solve all of your problems.