Design thinking for beginners

Is fear of testing ideas driven by instinct what holds many industries back from taking advantage of service design?

They more you look into design thinking, the more apparent its relevance across all sort of industries becomes apparent. Take my own profession – journalism. It’s rather famously going through a process of dramatic change right now, once where it’s struggling to find new revenue streams to replace faltering print ones – and where launching successfully online is proving tricky. One effort just laid off hundreds of staffers, for example.

Could the user-centric approach of service design help? At least one organisation thinks so.

Poynter – a school that exists to ensure that communities have access to excellent journalism, has published a primer on design thinking, one of the under-pinnings of service design.

Why? Well, as the article puts it:

Some journalists told me design thinking is very close to what good journalists already do. Donohue said while he was the editor at Voice of San Diego, “I was always trying to figure out … the different ways we could institutionalise creativity.” Design thinking offers “clear methods and frameworks for doing it. That’s one thing I wish I had known when we were starting Voice,” he said.

The actual structure is based on work done  Stanford University’s Hasso Platter Institute of Design or

The brings together journalists, engineers, historians, educators and scientists who want to embrace design thinking to create innovative projects.

They break down the process into five parts:

  1. Empathise
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

It’s in that last section that one of the most insightful comments is found:

Feedback frightens some people. The goal of design thinking isn’t relinquishing your common sense and intuition to the masses or pandering to your readers. It’s a method to increase collaboration and gauge the impact your story will have. Journalists like to use their own judgment to decide what to write and publish. Sometimes that works. Other times, there are better ways to tell the same story that could engage your audience more.

Journalists, as a bunch, are big believers in their gut instincts – and are often curiously unwilling to test those assumptions with rigorous testing and metrics. The big advantage of design thinking is that it can yearn that testing into an intelligent feedback loop. And yet, many dribblers remain utterly opposed to the idea.

I wonder how many other professions are being held back by the lack of courage to test their ideas right at the very start?