The Principles of Design Thinking Prevent Creativity and Innovation

Why is Design Thinking Neither Creative Nor Innovative?

Because the principals of Design Thinking overlook three key elements to innovation and creativity that go far beyond empathizing with a customer.

Design Thinking has become the go to model for innovation today.

This strikes us as crazy.

We get that the classical way of doing design and innovation as something that was totally removed from community and user input was a terrible top-down approach to making that needed to be changed (for many reasons including that it did not lead to real innovation).

It's not that empathy as a principal of design thinking is wrong. Talking to people is critical to any design.

Far from it, but it's really about understanding in what larger process empathy is embedded. Design Thinking just tacks empathy onto the front end of the classical (anti-creative) design process: empathize + (ideate - prototype - make) — at the end of the day, it's still an anti-creative process.

Three Reasons Design Thinking Principals Are Anti-Creative:

  1. It’s an “ideation first” process. But you can’t think the new directly — thinking relies on existing ideas and concepts… (we need to a new paradigm of “how to begin”)
  2. Accepting problems: asking what the problem is, leads to accepting problems as essentially pre-given — but to really innovate the problem must be invented.
  3. It's solution focused: jumping quickly to solutions is just band-aid innovation, nothing radical happens this way. You need to pause and enter into a process of novel worldmaking that leads to new problems before you can even entertain “solving” anything.

We like to say: “We need to invent problems worth having for worlds worth making.”

What About Empathy?

Empathy is really important to all design, not just Design Thinking. But, we need new highly engaged creative processes that use empathy across the process in many new ways, not just as a supplement tacked onto the beginning of failed innovation process.

Doing this requires recognizing that Design Thinking's principals - the old paradigm of innovation (in which Design Thinking is fully embedded) - is of little help for innovation that produces something qualitatively new— we need new paradigms of innovation.

As Octavia Butler puts it so well: “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are other suns”

What other suns, paradigms, and worlds are you testing? Drop us a note and let us know...

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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