Unlocking the Power of Design Thinking: What Makes it a Unique Way of Thinking? (Part 2)
Updated: Feb 17
I would like to kickoff with an important aspect of Design Thinking that many of my participants are very interested about. What makes Design Thinking a Unique Way of Thinking?
In the previous article, we have discussed the important traits of Design Thinking. In this article, we will delve deeper into how and why it is different from other thinking methods.
Comparison between Business Thinking and Creative Thinking
Business thinking is a rational and structured way of thinking that focuses on solving problems to achieve business results. It tends to analyse based on a very internal set of data and numbers that the organization has, and most often ignores the human elements and qualitative feedback. It also tends to ignore the big picture and prioritise achieving tangible results as the utmost importance. Business thinking also tends to have a specific solution or drivers to solve a particular problem without the ambiguity of exploring options and testing them.
For example, McDonald's realised that their profits for Fries have been dwindling based on their year-on-year sales data, hence they applied business thinking to implement set meals for customers to buy Fries with their Burgers. Profits improved.
This was done without empathizing why customers don't buy Fries on its own, and not exploring any other ideas such as Criss-Cut Fries or Mash Potato or Cheesy Fries and testing them out. It was just fingers-crossed and do it, and thankfully it was a success. However, we do have to caution that success factors like this could be few, and apply design thinking will be a safer bet.
Creative thinking on the other hand, is an intuitive and emotional way of thinking that focuses more on creation and expression, more often than not- dealing with no or undefined problems. It tends to be way of thinking that seeks to create ideas for the sake of creating, and again ignores the human element and not defining the human problems clearly. Outcome of creative thinking will end up to have whimsical and kitschy ideas that could be pieces of art rather than solutions.
Remember, innovation is about solving human problems creatively. Creative thinking, on the other hand, creates ideas and solutions desperately in search of a human problem- and most often than not, causes more human problems.
Take for example, Magic Mouse from Apple
Some "Creative Thinker" from Apple thought that it was cool to add the charging inlet at the BOTTOM of the Apple Mouse. Without empathizing with customers and definitely not prototyped and tested with users- Apple launched this Apple Mouse to the public with huge discontent. People could not use this Mouse while it was charging!
In this case, creative thinking has rebelliously ignored human needs in view of personal expression, and to a large extent- not solving human problems.
Take another example, Juicy Salif Citrus Squeezer by Phillip Starck
"I hate this thing. The Juicy Salif is one of the most terrible products ever made. It is incredibly difficult to use and almost impossible to use without holding onto one of the legs with your other hand, which makes the hand wet and is uncomfortable. It is hard to keep stable and difficult to stop it from moving. It is also a danger to surfaces you use it on and can slip. " Joris Peels, Blogger
Phillip Starck, obviously is a world-renowned, creative thinker and designer- and has created many cool and beautiful products. This Citrus Squeezer is a great case study of a cool design idea that looks good in photo and on the kitchen shelf- but the human factors of the lemon squeezer is badly thought out. Just try squeezing a lemon on the Juicy Salif.
Hence, creative thinking puts form over function, ignoring the need to prototype and test with users.
Design thinking is the combination of both Business Thinking and Creative Thinking, and focuses on the human- solving human problems and improving the user experience. It seeks to understand the root of the problem, by understanding business data as well as qualitative feedback from observations and interviews. At the same time, it also seeks to creatively solve problems by exploring good ideas. Lastly, it involves iterative prototyping and testing, which will ensure that the product / service solves a particular problem.
To know more unique traits of Design Thinking, see part 1.
I will be adding more articles on Design Thinking throughout the year. Articles of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test will be added periodically to give my readers a broader insights to Design Thinking.
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About the Author
Daniel Ling has more than 10 years of Design Thinking experience and has moulded himself to be a “designer in a business suit”- strong in the Design Thinking process and yet relevant to the financial and business industry- across OCBC, DBS, NTUC Income and Lazada. He trained close to 500 professionals in the area of Design Thinking, Innovation and Strategy. He authored the Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals and the book is sold worldwide via Amazon, iTunes, Ingram, Lulu and Kinokuniya.
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