Thursday’s Things that made me Think

By | May 6, 2010

Sam Ladner, PhD writes extensively on design research. Her latest post Designing a design-thinking organization is a well-written, cohesive and insightful take on the challenge of imbuing traditional organizations with the free-flowing interdisciplinary cross-pollination that effective design thinking requires by virtue of its nature.  Here’s the snippet on what inspired her to write this post:

Roger (Martin of Rotman School of Business) explained that some organizations are better able to embrace “design thinking,” which he defines as the ability to think both analytically and intuitively. He pointed out in his presentation and in his book that 20th century corporations have perfected the analytical frame of mind, but fail continuously to embrace the abductive leaps of logic that innovation requires.

Audience members repeatedly asked how to equip their organizations to embrace design thinking. Roger advised designers to “empathize” with their analytical peers, and business managers to “empathize” with their intuitive colleagues.[…] Roger’s advice fell short because he could not explain the social dynamics of organizational change. Just like Booger, he simply described; he failed to explain.


The Economist ran a special report on innovation on emerging markets in their April 15th 2010 issue. Covering a variety of topics from “breaking all the rules” to “business models in the emerging world“, its a worthwhile overview of some aspects that may influence our emerging future strategies.  Earlier this year, design magazine and resource Core77 published 5 case studies on disruptive innovations from emerging markets – products or platforms that begin by questioning our conventional wisdom for design and development.


Chris Pacione discusses what does it mean to be design literate in the latest issue of Interactions magazine. After covering the recent visibility of design – both in the mainstream media as well as its embrace by numerous organizations, he gets down to the brasstacks of making a case for design literacy for everyone, not just those formally trained in one of the recognized fields of design. A short excerpt:

Similarly, I think we can use this same line of reasoning to clarify what is meant by being design literate, as opposed to being an expert in design or a design professional. We are talking about basic skills in inquiry, evaluation, ideation, sketching, and prototyping. We are not talking about mastery of more specialized forms of knowledge that a graphic or industrial designer might employ, such as typography, color theory, or CAD, but basic skills that are well within the full range of everyone’s cognitive and kinesthetic capabilities and serve our everyday needs.

Another way to approach what it means to be design literate is to ask the question in a slightly different way. Something like this: If an individual, team or organization is good at design, what, exactly, are they good at? To date, Figure 1 is the best way that my colleagues and I have come up with to answer this question. It is our attempt to define the praxis of design thinking. We use it to identify what competencies we aim to develop in people and what methods we should teach in order to foster these competencies. It bears resemblance to other design-method taxonomies for sure. And those of you who are familiar with systems thinking, pattern language, and ethnography will be the first to acknowledge that many of the methods outlined have been present in the fields of system engineering, the applied arts, and anthropology for years.


Finally, for today, I’d like to leave you with an extract from Umair Haque’s HBR blogpost,  The Wisdom Manifesto – words which we believe have much meaning to all of us here at the factory:

The scarcest, rarest, and most valuable resource in the world today is wisdom.  The countries, companies, and people that possess it will prosper.  In many ways, wisdom is the opposite  of strategy — and today, it is strategy, bought by the dozen from legions of be-suited, back-slapping consultants, that is cheap, abundant, and worth little.
Strategy is the application of force. Wisdom is the application of love.  Strategy suppresses, but Wisdom evokes.  Its test is the ability to spark new ideas, concepts, and solutions.  That is how to be valued by people, communities, and society…

Until next week, when we return with another edition of Thursday’s thoughts…

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