Two New Reads For Design Thinkers

I recently came across two worthwhile readings to share on the subject of design thinking.

The first is an interview with Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO. While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with one of the commentors who stated that the interview is “a great overview of design thinking”, I do believe that those exploring the field would gain something from Brown’s comments about design in general and design thinking specifically to help them shape their perspective on what design thinking is and how it could be of help to a librarian. Brown, as always, shares a few good insights on design thinking. I particularly like his perspective on design being about “big” ideas and the importance of totality:

When Brown talks about ‘big’, he isn’t talking about size, or scale, or depth. It’s the totality of experiences that he—and ‘design thinking’—refers to…it’s “much more complex thing than any single object”, Brown insists. It’s about solving the problem of distributing clean water in poor countries, coming up with more efficient ways to direct human traffic in buildings, realizing untapped channels of communication in trade. Design is huge.

That gives you a taste of what you’ll find in this interview – and it’s a fairly fast read as well. Take a look.

Then I came across this other interesting post titled “Learning How to Use Design Thinking.” It appeared at InnovationManagement, and reports on a workshop that took place in Sweden in which 70 attendees learned how to apply design thinking to specific problems. This is more of an overview, as Dan Buzzini, Design Director at IDEO, explains how design thinking is an innovation tool. Two things to look for in this summary of the workshop are the reflections of the workshop participants – interesting to read what they thought was the most valuable part of the learning experience – and the link to a good video that demonstrates how IDEO helped a bank improve a self-service experience. It’s definitely worth watching.

Finally, here’s a link to an article about the engineering firm Arup. Titled “Working on Tomorrow’s World” it describes how Arup tackles incredibly difficult challenges related to designing and building future cities and their related structures. It’s a good read about a firm that has developed a successful approach to innovation. What caught my attention was the part about “hybrid thinking”. It’s described as:

Quite often, problem-solving innovation is created by “happy” clashes between different disciplines. Arup is a firm of engineers, designers, accountants, architects, marketing professionals and graphic designers. Engineers tackle architectural problems, designers try to answer engineering questions and technologists join forces with mathematicians to enable new angles to be explored. It’s what’s known as hybrid thinking.

Is it the same as design thinking? Despite some similarities (e.g., bringing together teams of diverse individuals to “deep dive” problems) Arup sees it as being slightly different:

Young doesn’t like to call it design thinking, a label that, he says, is simply “a discussion of semantics, a bit of a distraction”, but it’s clear Arup is infected with a childlike questioning of the status quo. It’s what drives creativity right to the edges of the company.

Perhaps it is just a case of semantics. What’s important is that both approaches start with the essential step of asking the right questions:

Arup’s culture is about stepping back, he says, and asking, “Is that the right question?” It’s not a case of “What are we building?”, but “What are we building it for?” He adds: “Out of that tension something else often pops out that wasn’t considered.” Innovation starts with a question.

If you come across a good read on design thinking I hope you’ll share it with me, and I’ll share it with DBL readers.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *