Design thinking has a simple objective of solving a problem, whether it is a business problem or social problem. It is a simple process that is quite people focused and negates the idea of working on what one 'thinks' is right. It is actually something that unknowingly all researchers incorporate in the way they brand a product or review a film.
To begin with design thinking is a unilinear five-step procedure in which one first empathizes with the audience, defines the problem based on customer needs, ideate creative solutions to those problems, build a prototype of one or more of these possible solutions and then return to the original target mindset to test the prototype.
However, thinkers have pondered about the relevance of design thinking in problem-solving. Some people might say it restricts the spontaneous messy unrestricted flow of creative thoughts. There are people too who say that design thinking simply brings discipline and focus to strategy.
Designers like Natasha Jen, partner to Pentagram, have argued against the unilinear procedure of design thinking. One significant point brought to the notice is the abject absence of criticism in design thinking. When one has ideas and generalizes them to a prototype solution, who counters this idea? Where is the point of a counterintuitive argument? Is its only tool the 3M post-its decorating the boardroom?
It is in a way true that even without consciously incorporating design thinking we are actually doing so, as Jen points out. Otherwise, how did Paula Scher scribble out the perfect possible logo for Citibank while listening to the very brief? Simple things work. At times you can skip steps. It’s like maths. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can arrive at the correct answer by not doing your rough work. Doesn’t mean you aren’t doing mental maths, however! Your intuition is going through those steps inside the head. Strategy doesn’t always involve something that is not purely intuitive. A good balance of intuition and logic is what drives strategy at its best. As Ajgaonkar says, “A common misconception about design thinking is that one can take a course to learn how to use it by applying a specific template.” There should be some clarity and direction in the thinking but it doesn’t always have to fit the bill.
The point on design thinking lacking criticism might be true on the face of it, but the very fact that the prototype is being tested on the original mindset and a pilot study of sorts is considered shows that design thinking doesn’t involve uncritical thinking, afterall.
References: Natasha Jen- Design Thinking is Bullshit, Prasad Ajgaonkar- Thinking Business Design Wise, Wayne Attwell- Does design thinking have relevance to brand strategy and business start-ups?