I have observed and experienced that unless there is a finished product, there are people out there who think the design thinking methodology is for naught.   I have also heard that there are some who say they don’t like the phrase “design thinking” because it leaves the impression there is no action, no doing, no product to back it up.  I disagree whole-heartedly.  I really appreciate when I discuss this aspect with Bo Adams  and I say I am fine with my students going through the process of DEEPdt and the end result not being a shiny, regular shaped, marketable product.   And Bo always comes back to me with,  “Why can’t it be a Yes, and Both?”  Or “It needs to be a Yes, and Both.” (I might be paraphrasing these quotes from Bo, but I want to make sure the “Yes, and Both.” statements are uttered correctly.)  And I agree with Bo (whole-heartedly).

Maybe a sticking point for some in calling DT a non-action vehicle is that there is not a shiny long lasting product to tie a ribbon on at the end.  Below are three articles via Helen Waters and  Peter Merholz.   As I began writing this post I felt the need to cite some sources below that have made “official” statements on design thinking, yet to be perfectly honest the above and my future writing below comes mostly from observation and conversations from plain ‘ole folks like me- teachers in the trenches and twitter peeps with opinions… (by the way ever hear of the saying about people and opinions? no worries, I will tread lightly 🙂

As much as I would love for all my students to be able to “Ship” their solutions to market, in reality of the every day school life, its just not possible, yet.  Over the last five + (just had my 6th year birthday in learning DT in March), the number of products our students have “shipped” can be counted on three hands… Yet the number of DEEP design thinking challenges our students at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School have participated in surpassed the 170+ mark by the conclusion of this school year. These challenges have ranged from reimagining learning spaces to designing rain coats for students in Zambia to bringing more community into the lunch room to designing an Innovation Diploma.  170+  IS HUGE- IMAGINE IT.

This idea of “ship it” comes from Seth Godin via my Head of School, Dr. Brett Jacobsen  who shined a light for me on Godin’s “shipping ideas” concept in August of last year.  (to be transparent- I am sure it was a required article or book I was supposed to read before hand but it was summer time and I was backlogged on my beach reads :).   Dr. Jacobsen wrote a great post on this concept on his blog, Design Movement.

There are three ways I look at the “ship it” concept.

  • 1st- You have an idea, run with it, take a risk, failup, go for it. Iterate along the way (do not wait for perfection-it never comes… remember the thing about people and opinions)
  • 2nd- You’ve taken your idea, tried it out, made several iterations, and it is now time to shine it up and put a bow on it.
  • 3rd (what I thought Dr. Jacobsen was saying when he kept saying “Ship It” http://youtu.be/hL4lSavSepc

Anyway, if I was with the fixed mindset that I could only “do” design thinking with my students if I knew we could & would take the solution to “ship it” levels (2nd) in DEEPdt Produce mode,  well then yes we would find ourselves in a non-action vehicle.  For me, the most important aspect of doing design thinking is the empathy building within the designer for their users.  The process of design thinking brings connection to others and carries you further along your path towards the unknown.  And it is in the unknown that going through the design thinking process will prepare you, create resilience, grit, fortitude, and heart to face whatever that unknown maybe. 

Yes, I want to produce final products that go beyond cardboard and pipe cleaners.  I want my students to produce final products that go beyond cardboard and pipe cleaners… and make a lasting impact to leave behind for others….I want the Yes, and Both. Yet, in my opinion the more we go through the design thinking process, we are making a lasting impact with or without the bow on the end in ourselves for others to experience.

Design Thinking Won’t Save You   by Helen Waters 

Design Thinking Isn’t a Miracle Cure, but Here’s How It Helps by Helen Waters

Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You by by Peter Merholz