Design Thinking Goes Mainstream

If a high profile article in the New York Times is a sign of mainstream acceptance of an idea, than design thinking just went mainstream. In an article titled “Design is More Than Packaging” author Janet Rae-Dupree writes:

Properly used, design thinking can weave together elements of demographics, research, environmental factors, psychology, anthropology and sociology to generate novel solutions to some of the most puzzling problems in business.

Yes, the article does appear in the business section and the tone of the article is that design thinking offers businesses a better process for decision making and achieving creative solutions. I suppose that it would be asking too much for an article that portrays design thinking in much broader terms.

Overall I think the article does a reasonably good job of communicating what design thinking is – not always an easy task. Good examples always help but I was disappointed by the one featuring Saturn and the refurbishment of their showrooms. I understand the author was trying to point out how the design process emphasized creating an environment that was far more interactive for the buyer, but it comes off sounding a bit too much like the big change was in the design of the showroom interior. The design process was underplayed. One thing that I did like was what Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO has to say:

“Design thinking is inherently about creating new choices, about divergence,” says Tim Brown, the chief executive and president of the design consulting firm IDEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif. “Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”

So despite some ups and downs I think it’s great that the New York Times gave attention to design thinking. Now maybe next time they’ll want to explore how design thinking can help us make our libraries better.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

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