In my last post I mentioned that BusinessWeek offers a really good quarterly supplement that focuses on design, innovation, creativity – and other issues we like to read about. The latest one is now available online. It includes articles on the greatest innovations of all time, an innovation case study focusing on GE, a slide show on the state of social networking, and more. My favorite is the article about the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital firm that is using design thinking to improve social conditions for those in poverty around the world. As one member of the firm said:
“We’re creating an overall design for how you provide goods and services to poor people,” she says. Observing customers to uncover their unmet needs, creating prototypes of new products and services for them, iterating and improving those until they work, looking for new business modelsâ€”these are all the critical fundamentals of design that Acumen uses in its work.”
It sometimes concerns me, that when I talk about design thinking, librarians will assume this concept is primarily business driven and therefore will not apply to libraries. It isÂ true that design thinking is certainly more a business concept than it is a humanities or social science philosophy, but this article clearly shows us that design thinking need not be used only in business settings or situations. As Tim Brown of IDEO is quoted in the article:
“It’s all about innovation,” says Brown. He explains that using the methodology of design can solve social, as well as business, problems. “We’re pretty good at taking a bunch of disparate components and figuring out the solution.”
I’ve said in the past thatÂ just because something works in a business environment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for libraries. But design thinking is a way of identifying problems and developing solutions. It’sÂ not the same as saying, “Hey look, libraries should be emailing books to patrons and letting them keep them as long as they want with no fines because that’s what Netflix does and look at how successful they are.”Â Â It may work for some libraries, but not all. It depends on the culture and community. But I would argue that design thinking is, as Brown points out, a “methodology of design” and not simply a business model that others should emulate.
At some point I will probably no longer feel the need to write posts that try to convince you that design thinking has powerful possibilities for librarians, but will assume you already have come to that conclusion. But feel free to argue the case if you see it another way. Good discourse on the topic will only serve to heighten our understanding.