Design Thinking: Dogma or Delight?

By Guy Borgford, Director of Business Development

The adoption of Design Thinking crosses industry verticals, demographics, startups, and Fortune 100 companies alike. As organizations struggle to adapt to rapidly changing technical and cultural landscapes, the only constant in the present and immediate future is change, and with it, the uncertainty lurking in the shadows of the unknown. Aside from AI and the promise of predictive modeling, we’re left to our own devices, looking into the crystal ball that is our future, while hoping our current state of socioeconomic stability won’t be disrupted or altogether destroyed by the tidal wave of change pounding at our doors.

Design Thinking by its very nature tries to free us from dogma, breaking us out of the boxes of our own creation, while enabling us to focus on and truly define the problem. We’re urged to embrace uncertainty, shedding assumptions and predispositions, in order to tap the unknowns, the breakthroughs, and the innovations that effectively address the problems and challenges we’re looking to solve.

While Design Thinking is a game-changing framework for staying focused on the problem or challenge at hand, some adopt it in ways that directly counter its effectiveness. They take it a step too far, turning the framework into a dogmatic process, mired in rigidity and structure, inflexible to what are often necessary pivot points and moments of reinvention. The focus on process and not outcomes, strips Design Thinking of its super powers, taking the soul out of the project’s intent and jeopardizing its success.

At times one must make assumptions in order to have a starting block from which to launch. Design Thinking should be used as a way to identify and validate those assumptions, while not using inherent assumptions of how Design Thinking should be employed to get us from point A to point B.  We can never assume the path will follow a certain direction, other than an iterative, looping journey of research-driven and desired outcomes that address the challenge at hand, while solving the problem from a very human-centered perspective.

Design Thinking isn’t a process. It isn’t a methodology. It’s not thinking outside the box, nor staying within its borders. It’s a framework and a way of approaching problems that keep us real, allowing us to embrace the unknown and expect the unexpected, while keeping our eye on the outcomes. If you ask me we could all use a little Design Thinking approach in our daily lives too – just go with the flow and enjoy the twists, turns, and pivots life throws our way.

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