Design Thinking: Fad or Fact?


I gave a talk on the above question last week at one of my favorite groups, the Association of Managers of Innovation. As the name might suggest, this is a group with a perspective on innovation—multiple perspectives, in fact. My goal was to float to the group a series of questions aimed at opening a dialogue around what the future of design thinking is. To get there, I thought it prudent to avoid the question of what it is almost entirely, simply stating that, right or wrong, let's assume design thinking is the application of a designer’s customer-centric mindset to a given problem. 

Researching the subject gave me direction in how to prompt the group, but not because of the depth of material, rather the sheer breadth of it. Opinions on design thinking—its definition, its application, the underlying processes and tools—are not in short supply. So, after 15 minutes of what’s out there and who’s doing what, I had had enough. I decided to share that research experience with the group as my stimulus, and then ask them the same questions I asked myself. Here they are:

Q1: Is design thinking a fad or a fact?
Q2: Is certification or training in design thinking desirable? Valuable?
Q3: If there is one, what is a better term for design thinking?
Q4: If you’re trying, how are you embedding design thinking into your organization? What’s working?

I plan on reporting back on how the group answered these questions and comparing with my own perspective, but first I hope to turn these questions out to a broader audience. So, what do you think? Is design thinking fad or fact?

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)