Why isn’t Design Thinking enough?

This essay is cross posted from Econogy.co and Della Rucker on Medium.  

To continue the line of thought from yesterday’s critique of design thinking

So why do we resist more meaningful or hands-on engagement of the people for whom we are problem-solving? Why do we persist in doing it the Industrial Age way when it doesn’t take much looking to see how that approach has failed? Why do we struggle to unlock the potential of community-wide innovation?

toolbox-illustration_csp22301325I think there’s several key reasons– both for clinging to the old models, and for making only tentative steps along the continuum:

First, security.  The security of believing that someone has the answer figured out, in hand. That someone might be ourselves, the Experts, confident in our knowledge and oblivious to our blind spots. Or it might be ourselves as the recipients of that wisdom, grateful to sit back and let someone else make the hard decisions.

Second, learned behavior.  If we have come up in a tradition of expertise and authority (personally or professionally), then That’s The Way It Should Be.  We fill the assigned role of the expert or the helpless subject. When we do that, we don’t have to ask critical questions, we don’t have to make any powers that be mad, we mask our uncertainty or gut sense that we don’t really know what we’re doing. We fill the role we are set up to play–as the source of solutions, or the recipient of paternalistic care.

Third, uncertainty. We don’t have to have much expertise to know that the more people we get involved, the messier and more unpredictable the process will be.  People, expert or layperson, can be complex, confusing, contradictory and combative. The more people, we infer, the more risk of everything going sideways.

Fourth, lack of the right process management techniques.  Just as design thinking necessitates very different skills from conventional analysis, working with a wider range of people in a more meaningful way will require new activities, steps, and a new tool kit as well.

There’s no reason why we can’t take the next step to more meaningful collaboration, to co-creation, just like we learned to use design thinking methods to get past the barriers embedded in our older methods. To get there, we have to see the benefits of co-creation and we have to develop a tool kit for getting there.

That’s nothing we haven’t as a culture done many times before. It’s just the next step in our long evolution. But we need to get that transition in process, fast.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s