Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review–Change by Design

I recently did some training on Design Thinking and one of the books that was recommended during the class was “Change by Design” by Tim Brown. Since I am a sucker for a good book I decided to get my hands on a copy. Throughout the book Tim Brown describes work that his company, IDEO, has done for various clients. IDEO has been a pioneer in design thinking for several years so the various stories serve as an illustration on how design thinking can solve complex problems.

Design thinking is essentially taking multiple disciplines and bringing them together to develop new ways of approaching problems. For example graphic designers that also have business degrees or MBAs. It is basically a methodology that combines traditional business and engineering principals and adds a more creative twist. The thought is to try to get right brain types to start using more of their creative side. However, these principals can also be used by creative types to focus their efforts by using more logical methodologies.

The many examples focus on how complex problems were solved using both logical and creative processes in harmony. Many unique and effective solutions can be found by using a multidisciplinary approach.

Essentially design thinking is bringing in the principals of design into other activities. Designers use a multitude of creative thinking exercises to help come up with new designs based on requirements. This same principal can apply to other types of problems as well. Designers as well as programmers use prototyping as a way to begin the design for a finished product. This technique can be applied to business challenges as well.

Design thinking only works in an ecosystem that encourages experimentation and FAILURE. To get that one brilliant idea or solution you generally have to go through several failures. This process can also take a lot of resources especially in time. More often than not brilliant ideas aren’t the first ideas brought to the table, they tend to require some nurturing.

The bottom line: This book gives a very good overview of design thinking. Many concrete examples are discussed that demonstrate the techniques working. However, Tim Brown takes a realistic approach pointing out that although a useful tool it does not solve every problem. If your interested in learning about a different problem solving technique this book provides a balanced description of Design Thinking as a technique.

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