What Design Thinking Is NOT

Design thinking is not what you think it is

Not surprisingly, design thinking means very different things to different people – just like design, or user experience (UX).

Among all the different interpretations and practices of design thinking, there are common themes and things. We just have to embrace the polymorphic nature of the abstract concept hand-made by humans.

Understanding what it’s NOT might be a decent start.

It’s Not One Thing

Design thinking is NOT any single activity, technique, method, process, principle or philosophy.

Different practitioners from different fields and professions use different approaches and call them different names: creative problem solving, abductive thinking, strategic thinking, design synthesis, brainstorming, creative exploration, thinking outside the box, strategy for innovation, wicked problem solving, design-centered strategy, user-centered, customer-centric, service design, timeless way of building, designer’s way, just a tool.

It’s Not About Design

Design thinking is NOT just about design and/or thinking. Sometimes it’s about one potential approach to innovate, depending on how much you believe in experts who claim it’s for innovation.

It’s Not About Designers

Design thinking is NOT role-specific. Anyone can do it, not just designers and managers.

Design thinking is NOT exclusively whatever those designers, managers, consultants, experts, best-selling authors, academics tell you it is. They are simply different interpretations of the same thing.

It’s Not Almighty

Design thinking is NOT panacea. The application of it is highly contextual and is often tightly coupled with the problems and how people work – the work culture.

You can NOT simply take any of its interpretations of techniques, methods, processes, principles, or philosophies and apply directly and then expect positive results. Scientifically speaking, there’s NO proven, guaranteed way, even though many claim there is. If love is a game, here are the rules – do you literally believe that?

It’s Not Pious

In most cases, design thinking is mentioned in the context of solving problems. Many of those are business problems, some of them social ones.

That’s why you’d find many similarities between the design thinking practices and problem solving ones.

It’s Not Even Fresh

So how do we solve problems creatively?

In order to find the answer, we need to try to understand what the problems are like, and what we mean by solution.

Understanding the context is always the first step.

But it’s definitely a buzzword.


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