Have you ever tried to explain design thinking to someone from a different discipline?
What was the hardest part to explain? What helped you get the message across?
My experience has been with engineers- since I'm one and work with them all the time. I think that the number one probelm with explaining things to technical folks is that there's no solid, fixed solution to a problem. This- despite the fact that the best engineered systems are robust because they include tolerance and ambiguity in their designs. But that seems to be the problem- their focused analysis limits ambiguity tolerance only to the technical, and not human aspects. Thinking in groups, and admitting that 'you don't know' is usually a much more difficult feat that I've found in technical folks, particularly within education. I know this might sound a bit confusing, but I'm off to class and would be happy to share more. I teach electrical engineering now.
Thanks Khurram, very interesting!
I agree with your notions. Tolerance to ambiguity is a trade that is hard to acquire. As a designer I always feel the tension between pushing forward to find a solution and pulling back in order to remain in the ambiguous stages and open as many options as possible.
If you'll have time after class, it would be interesting to learn how you deal with this challenge? Are there certain phrases or attitudes you use to get your colleagues or students on board with design thinking?
Sorry for the late reply Ayelet - but yes it's tough to even mention 'design thinking' to most folks in engineering. But another thing I am also weary of is grouping 'design thinking' into its own, branded form of thinking. In all honesty I think it's just a more open minded, collective way to think and solve problems.
As an engineering instructor, I think the first premise of me trying to inculcate ambiguity tolerance is to tell students that just because they're studying very precise systems and methods- doesn't mean they can't be wrong. Engineering students have this expectation of their understanding of any problems, to be a lot more solid than non-engineers. That raises their own expectations of what it means to learn, and be a good student into such warped measures of what it means to learn- that a majority of engineering majors will cease to believe that what they're studying is actually fun and cool. Basically- it should be okay to make mistakes. (Just like I wanted to fix the comment a little bit; it said I had 15 minutes to do so. brilliant)
It'll be interesting to share more with you, and see what its like for you as a teacher using design thinking as well.
Thanks Khurram, how interesting!
I'm sorry I couldn't reply earlier.
I agree with you that 'design thinking' is mostly a way to brand a thought process that is not 'new', but rather 'newly formulated' in an explicit manner. A friend shared with me this article by Don Norman recently which discusses this issue in particular.
It is fascinating to learn about what you find is holding your students back from embracing ambiguity. It reminds me of what Charles Owen referred to in 2007 :
“As a case in point, a major difference between science and design lies in the difference between Correctness and Effectiveness as important measures of success. Correct/Incorrect (or True/False) is appropriate for a field in which there can only be one ‘true’ answer or correct explanation for an observed phenomenon. Better/Worse is appropriate for a field in which multiple solutions can be equally successful because the conditions for judgment are culturally successful because the conditions for judgment are culturally based.“ (I wrote a summary of his paper here if you're interested).
There's a quite a difference between looking for 'the right' solution and looking for 'a better' solution. The main difference, in my eyes, is in the openness one may have to exploring different options, and that, as you suggest, requires tolerance to ambiguity. What do you think?
My background is in working with lecturers across disciplines, exploring the use design thinking to address teaching and learning challenges. I find that in a higher education environment, critical thinking is the 'flagship' of thinking attitudes. Therefore, the most difficult part to communicate to them in design thinking is the concept of building on ideas rather than critiquing them. In a sense, looking at what makes an idea good, and how one can build on that, rather than dismissing it all together for the parts that can not 'work'.
Have you and others who are participating in the discussion finding similar difficulties?
Well, here's shaking the tree from another branch. I've bumped into such things and following other trails such as:
Negotiating Reality - like a kind of mapping used by cultural interchange and awareness people, orig in Germany I think. Similar to that (to me) is a kind of action research - living theory
UBC study shows traditional teaching styles to be ineffective | The ...
All of which sort of says 'learning by doing' works.
An interesting way to look at this Vic. Do you see negotiation of reality as a part of design thinking?
I see negotiating reality as a kind of situation mapping, then one might use designer ways to explore routes across the map. Mixing negotiating-mapping and design approaches might create design routes across very sparse maps. I think the negotiating reality often implicitly designs by creating awareness of approaches.
That's a nice description of it Vic. I guess that the more we look at things from different perspectives, the easier it is to think creatively about possible solutions. Also, I agree with you that becoming more aware and reflecting is usually what gives us a better understanding of the problems - and therefore - the solutions.
Do you have an example of a case in which you felt that action research, or a process of negotiation of reality led to a creative solutions?
I think it resolves in class interactions. In the Ningxia eg I think they are changing/have changed Chinese teacher to student interactions. I think that courses in China where rote-learning based students prep to go university abroad, benefit when some such interactions to enrich the student habits for learning-doing-engaging grow. The negotiating reality approach is akin to Chinese engagments with others. A USian in particular might negotiate a contract with a Chinese company.The Chinese expect ongoing engagement (akin to negotiating reality) as the relationship develops. To be really fruitful the pattern is a kind of action research across cultures as they grow ways of designing-building-delivering products/services.
Good question! Well my experience is a bit different being here in the Philippines. Design thinking is not really big here.
I usually share design thinking with corporations, NGOs and students. The hard part is when they look at design thinking in the perspective of a certain discipline or tools that they have experienced in the past. They treat it as another tool that can be used to innovate or come up with new ideas, products or things. Instead of looking at it in the view of a "process".
And this challenge sometimes frustrates me to move forward. I wonder how you deal with this, I would really love to hear your experience in handling this situation.
To add to Jaime's reply- I totally agree. I think in developing countries (like Pakistan, where I work), design thinking can be waved off as 'fluff' soemtimes; it's a hard sell, which is why I just try to apply its principles without the wrapper. I think this opens up a good subdiscussion when time permits- why is design most applicable to developing countries, but least approachable/ promotable?