Roger Martin on Design Thinking

Design thinking isn’t about design. At least not in the way we normally think about them. Instead its an abstraction of ‘how designers think when designing’. And the use of ‘designers’ here really refers to anyone skilled in the creation of new solutions, not only those with formal training design (though they are trained in some of the skills).

From this comment thread here:

I believe there is a form of thinking – analytical thinking – that dominates thinking in business. It is deeply rooted in the past; it seeks to extrapolate the past into the future using deductive and/or inductive logic. In opposition to analytical thinking is not design thinking but rather intuitive thinking – knowing without reasoning. Intuitive thinking imagines the future. It is about invention; the most disruptive and unsystematic form of thinking.

An organization that attempts to survive on analytical thinking will slowly die a death of stultification. An organization that attempts to survive on intuitive thinking will expire between inventions.

To me, design thinking is the productive combination of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking, a form of thinking that utilizes the deductive and inductive logic of analytical thinking and combines it with the abductive logic – the logic of what might be – from intuitive thinking. In combination, these modes of thinking enable an organization to achieve the reliability that permits survival and the validity that enables renewal.

Strategy development is a class of design process. Not only is the output a ‘design’ for a business, and a good business model having the attributes of being ‘well designed’ (focused, cohesive, elegant trade-offs, least possible parts), but the process itself is one of ‘designing’.

To this end, it requires both imagination and creation – abductive logic – to look into the future and imagine what might be, and inductive/deductive logic to validate that what we have created is feasible and viable.

Unfortunately this first part is poorly understood by most managers and consultants. Instead, they rely on the tools of deduction/induction to ‘analyse’ future opportunities. However, as Toby Golsby-Smith puts succinctly “we cannot analyze our way one inch into the future, for the simple reason that the future does not exist yet, so it is not there to analyze”.

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