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Is Design Thinking Dead?

Made popular by David Kelley and IDEO in mid 2000s, Design Thinking is a “problem-solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results” (Fast Company). The term has sparked much debate in the creative field over the years, and the debate has intensified recently as the future of design thinking has been called into question.

Advocates for Design Thinking, like IDEO,  have spread the idea to virtually all industries, infiltrating business, education, marketing, and science. They say this dissemination has given design and designers the credibility that we never had before in many of these industries. On the other side of the debate, some designers believe that the mass adoption of Design Thinking has undermined the complexity and true power of what’s truly a creative process.

The view of Design Thinking is shifting as designers, consultants, and businesses, see the methodology fail to deliver the promised results. Design thinking attempts to make the creative process available to the masses, but in the process, has trimmed down the methodology and diluted it to a linear process. Instead of inviting the space for ideas to grow and imagination to wander upon the next big idea, Design Thinking has narrowed the field of vision, focusing on a prescribed linear path to a single solution. Designers and creatives are rising up against the idea, accusing it of hijacking creativity by squeezing out the necessary space for exploration and true inspiration to happen.

As an ever-evolving design studio, we at Big New Ideas are constantly reinventing ourselves, borrowing, and creating new ideas to solve problems. We believe the constant shouldn’t be the methodology, but instead, the problem. There are multiple ways of solving every problem, and as leaders and creatives we improvise and adapt to arrive at the solution. Like a Jazz musician, the stronger your musical foundation, the more tricks you could pull out of your hat while you improvise. In problem solving, Design Thinking is merely one method. The deeper your understanding of the creative process, the more methods you can call upon to arrive at the best solutions.

So, is Design Thinking dead? No, but more importantly, it started a revolution in challenging our ways in problem solving. Design Thinking is merely a slice of the potential of creativity outside the walls of traditional design. New methodologies will continue to emerge as problem solvers and designers discover different ways to solve the world’s problems.

Related Articles:
Tim Brown’s Design Thinking Blog
Ideo’s David Kelley on “Design Thinking”
Bruce Nussbaum - Design Thinking Is a Failed Experiment. So What’s Next
Helen Walters – Can Innovation Really Be Reduced To A Process?
Peter Merholz – Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You