Design Thinking-reporting from Stanford
Figure 1: My ex students Brainstorming at DNOPUC [2007-2009]
I normally talk a lot about Design Thinking, and normally I get a lot of comments on it. Yet the issue is it has become a buzzword lately. So what is Design Thinking? In my life, I’ve been to a lot of Harvard Business Review conferences back home [Santiago, Chile] where business people love to talk about Design Thinking being part of their innovative management. Yet, I could never get a “real in depth” reflection on it. Maybe it was too much to ask for.
On the other hand, Design Thinking always seemed to be a great approach for engaging any Social Innovation enterprise. Overall, because it is framed under an interaction design focus which uses hands-on thinking. It looks for empathic approaches and fosters collaboration. I wanted to know how this concept had permeated other disciplines, and what other Chilean professionals thought about it. I asked one of my friends, Pablo Fernández, business-management alumni from PUC Chile and today a Master student in Stanford [management science and engineering], to write about his experience with Design Thinking. This is what he wrote:
THINKING ON OUTLIERS, EMPATHY, AND HANDS-ON CREATIVITY
“Currently I’m reading a book that has giving me more reasons to believe in the designing thinking process. In particular, the importance of empathy, intuition and observation. Coming from the business world (and being a graduate student at the Engineering Department at Stanford) I always had a tendency to look for quantitative data, numbers that I can crunch and play with. I have been told to look for the average user, the consumer that lives in the mean of the curve. And to do that you should use polls, surveys and hard data to describe these groups.
Today, since I’m working at the d.school, I am looking for extreme users, the outliers of the curve, single and ordinary consumers to talk with and get to know their motivations and feelings. And based on these particulars insights, to come up with a “point of view” and a “needs” to work on. Is that “scientific”? Can we trust this method based on observation and intuition? Is that something that anybody can do? When Darwin published his “Theory of Evolution”, he didn’t have a pile of facts to show. Actually, most of his work was based on the notes he took traveling around the world and his intuition. Even more, when it was first published, the fossil record was poorly known, and Darwin described the lack of transitional fossils as “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory“. With this example, and many other from geniuses like Einstein, Rousseau and others, Nicholas Humphrey explains what is called “an exemplary scientific hypothesis”. It describes the ability to image more than they have seen, but in doing that they don’t create an imaginary world but to glimpse the existing order in the existing world. You don’t need a whole pile of evidence, just a theory that is better than any other going around.In his book The Inner Eye, Nicholas Humphrey states that all humans have this ability. We use this ability not as artist or scientist but as ordinary humans beings. We all, everyday of our life, image more than we can see, because we are constantly “reading” other peoples minds. He believes that all human posses a sort of inner eye, that looks into each other brains and tells us why and how we acting in the way we acting. This is possible because we are aware of our feelings. And because we are conscious of our emotions we can predict what other peoples are feeling based on what they are doing. Humans beings are all members of the same species, share almost 99% of our genes. Based on this biological fact, it is not very likely that two people will differ radically in the way their minds work. I can understand what the person next to me is thinking by the look in his face. Of course, all humans are different. But if by some accident of the evolution, I have a quite different kind of mind that the rest of the people, I will be facing a lots of troubles to understand others and I wouldn’t be very suitable to adapt myself in the world. Humphrey ends his book stating that “the single human trait that define what we are is our capacity to mind – to mind what are we and to mind what other people are.” We are related to one another and can reproduce the world of other people.
Design thinking gives a huge importance to empathy, interaction with the user and it is also based on the idea of discover feelings and latents emotions (an exemplary scientific hypothesis). It is focused on people and users, not markets. But most important of all design thinking is basically a methodology that allows people to have confidence in their creative ability. A framework that anybody can hang their creative confidence on. If we believe that, just like Humphrey states, we all have the ability to image more than we can see, we could all have the potential to be design thinkers”.
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