Tag mindset

Rethinking How We Define Passion & Why We Should Cultivate A Craftsman’s Mindset …*

Rethinking How We Define Passion & Why We Should Cultivate A Craftsman’s Mindset ...* | rethinked.org

I am reading a fascinating book on the history of the color palette and one of the chapters I was just reading addresses the historical shift of the perception of painting as a “craft profession to an art one.” This shift was accelerated in the mid-seventeenth century with the nascent field of ‘colormen,’ professionals who mixed raw materials into paints, something artists had mostly done themselves until that point.

“For “craftspeople” the ability to manage one’s material was all important; for “artists” the dirty jobs of mixing and grinding were simply time consuming obstacles to the main business of creation.”

[ . . . ]

“What was the good of painting a masterpiece if its constituent elements would spend the next few years fighting together chemically on the canvas, and ultimately turn black? The early seventeenth-centuy painter Anthony Van Dyck knew how to employ varnish so that colors that would otherwise react with each other would be safe from ruin; Victorian artists, however, did not, and this was, Holman Hunt predicted, to be their downfall. Part of the issue was that he–and his teachers, and his teachers’ teachers–had rarely had to mix paint from basic materials. He had never had to grind a rock, or powder a root, or burn a twig, or crush a dried insect. Nor, more importantly, had he observed the chemical reactions involved in paint-making and seen how colors changed over the years.”

Source: Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

This reminded me of advice I read from Cal Newport about shifting from a ‘passion’ mindset, which has been a dominant cultural trope these past few decades–“what do I love to do and how do I do only that?”–to a “crafstman’s” mindset, a relentless focus on activating one’s unique potential by continually pushing to develop one’s skills and acquire new ones.

My advice is to abandon the passion mindset which asks “What does this job offer me? Am I happy with this job? Is it giving me everything I want?” Shift from that mindset to Steve Martin’s mindset, which is “What am I offering the world? How valuable am I? Am I really not that valuable? If I’m not that valuable, then I shouldn’t expect things in my working life. How can I get better?“ Like a craftsman, you find satisfaction in the development of your skill and then you leverage that skill once you have it to take control of your working life and build something that’s more long-term and meaningful… When I talk about the habits of the craftsman mindset, it’s really the habits of deliberate practice. So someone who has the craftsman mindset is trying to systematically build up valuable skills because that’s going to be their leverage, their capital for taking control of their career and they share the same habits you would see with violin players or athletes or chess players.

The craftsmen out there are not the guys checking their social media feeds every five minutes. They’re not looking for the easy win or the flow-state. They’re the guys that are out there three hours, pushing the skill. “This is hard but I’m going to master this new piece of software. I’m going to master this new mathematical framework.” That’s the mindset, the habit of the craftsman.

Source: Cal Newport on how you can be an expert and why you should *not* follow your passion

I think there is something about the craftsman’s mindset that is particularly important in our age of instant gratification and seemingly constant technological innovation. The abundant research on flow states is just one potent reminder of the joys and rewards to be found in taking the long road when creating something, whether it is a painting, a life or a career. Working through challenges is not a guarantee for reaching a flow state, but without an appropriate degree of difficulty relative to one’s skill level, without stretching past what we know, flow is impossible.

We need a collective rethink in how we define passion. Passion is not easy nor instantaneously gratifying and it is certainly not always joyful. When we ignore the painful aspects of passion, we lose out on the chance to ferociously pursue the possibility of living meaningful and fulfilling lives where we have the potential to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. 

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.” – Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves 

learn, practice, create & rethink …* 

Critical elements of the { design thinking mindset…* }

Dominic’s recent post {Inspired} by IDEO is very timely for me, because I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about one of the ideas he mentioned in his post. Dominic writes about design thinking, stating:

when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…

As I mentioned in this post, Can students learn something about failure from the design world?, I have designing a formal research study regarding design mindset and how it relates to classroom motivation and processes outside of the traditional design world. My theory is that students who take on a design mindset will be more persistent in the face of failure and more willing and able to try again when faced with setbacks or difficulty in the classroom. Starting this Thursday, I will be testing my theory in a short week-long study of how design thinking mindset can transfer to math and science learning.

DT4E defines design thinking as “the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge.”  I like this definition a lot. However, I will only have a few class periods in which to instill design mindset into the 7th and 8th graders in my study, so I have been forced to make a more narrow definition of design thinking and really think about what the key elements are. I’ve divided it into two pieces-

1) Permission to fail and 2) The Process of Iteration.

Permission to Fail…*

I believe that the heart of design thinking mindset is permission to fail — the fundamental philosophy that failure is a healthy and natural aspect of the process of learning and design. For my intervention, I will be teaching students the motto “Fail fast, Fail forward”. Those who possess a design mindset are not afraid of failure and recognize that only through failure can one grow a solution from a bad to okay to great. 

Iterate, iterate, iterate…*

The second fundamental tenet of design thinking mindset is this idea of iteration – of repeatedly trying ideas and getting feedback. While this concept is clearly a piece of the design thinking process, I also see it as a mindset. The iterative design thinking process enables someone to come up with innovative solutions to hard problem.

Once one learns and truly embraces this process, it can become a tool to change one’s reaction to negative feedback or setbacks in problem solving. This is where the mindset piece comes in. A person who possesses an iterative mindset will be resilient in the face of setbacks because she knows that she is in the midst of a cyclical process of design. In the face of negative feedback, she will redesign and retest, rather than get stuck or frustrated. 


In the next two weeks, I will be teaching students these two fundamental aspects of design thinking through both lessons and and practice in a tower building task. By cultivating a design mindset, I predict that these students will persist and succeed more in a challenging physics task than students who do not receive design thinking lessons.

Wish me luck! And let me know if you think there are other pieces of the design thinking puzzle that I should include in my lesson.

6 Easily Implementable Positive Psychology Interventions to Enhance Mental & Physical Well-Being …*

6 Easily Implementable Positive Psychology Interventions to Enhance Mental & Physical Well-Being ...* | rethinked.org

Over the last several weeks I have been exploring and writing about the field of Positive Psychology. In many of my posts, I shared small and easily implementable interventions suggested by Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness to translate the findings of Positive Psychology into tangible benefits in your daily life. I have been experimenting with most of these in my own life over the past few weeks and starting next week, I will share my discoveries, insights and opinions about the benefits of each of these interventions. In the meantime, I’ve assembled all of the exercises in one place in case you want to try them for yourself.

rethink & design your well-being …*


Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you. (If you are so moved, please do send me a copy at Seligman@psych.upenn.edu) (74)


Set aside five free minutes each night for the next two weeks, preferably right before brushing your teeth for bed. Prepare a pad with one page for each of the next fourteen days. The first night take the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the General Happiness Scale and score them. Then think back over the previous twenty-four hours and write down, on separate lines, up to five things in your life you are grateful or thankful for. Common examples include “waking up this morning,” “the generosity of friends,” “God for giving me determination,” “wonderful parents,” “robust good health, and the “Rolling Stones” (or some other artistic inspiration). Repeat the Life Satisfaction and General Happiness Scales on the final night, two weeks after you start, and compare your scores to the first night’s scores. If this worked for you, incorporate it into your nightly routine. (75)


R stands for recall the hurt, in as objective a way as you can. Do not think of the other person as evil. Do not wallow in self-pity. Take deep, slow and calming breaths as you visualize the event. (79)

E stands for empathize. Try to understand from the perpetrator’s point of view why this person hurt you. This is not easy, but make up a plausible story that the transgressor might tell if challenged to explain. To help you do this, remember the following:

  • When others feel their survival is threatened, they will hurt innocents.
  • People who attack others are themselves usually in a state of fear, worry, and hurt.
  • The situation a person finds himself in, and not his underlying personality, can lead to hurting.
  • People often don’t think when they hurt others; they just lash out. (80)

A stands for giving the altruistic gift of forgiveness, another difficult step. First recall a time you transgressed, felt guilty, and were forgiven. This was a gift you were given by another person because you needed it, and you were grateful for this gift. Giving this gift usually makes us feel better. But we do not give this gift out of self-interest. Rather, we give it because it is for the trespasser’s own good. Tell yourself you can rise above hurt and vengeance. If you give the gift grudgingly, however, it will not set you free. (80)

C stands for commit yourself to forgive publicly. In Worthington’s groups, his clients write a “certificate of forgiveness,” write a letter of forgiveness to the offender, write it in their diary, write a poem or song, or tell a trusted friend what they have done. These are all contracts of forgiveness that lead to the final step. (81)

H stands for hold onto forgiveness. This is another difficult step, because memories of the event will surely recur. Forgiveness is not erasure; rather, it is a change in the tag lines that a memory carries. It is important to realize that the memories do not mean unforgiveness. Don’t dwell vengefully on the memories, and don’t wallow in them. Remind yourself that you have forgiven and read the documents you composed. (81)

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past …*


During the next five adverse events you face in your daily life, listen closely for your beliefs, observe the consequences, and dispute your beliefs vigorously. Then observe the energy that occurs as you succeed in dealing with the negative beliefs. Record all of this. These five adverse events can be minor: the mail is late, your call isn’t returned, or the kid pumping your gas doesn’t wash the windshield. In each of these use the four techniques of self-disputation. (98)

Do it in your daily life over the next week. Don’t search out adversity, but as it comes along, tune in carefully to your internal dialogue. When you hear the negative beliefs, dispute them. Beat them into the ground, then record the ABCDE.

  • Adversity:
  • Belief:
  • Consequences:
  • Disputation:
  • Energization:


Cultivating Optimism & Hope to Enhance Well-Being, Performance & Positive Emotions About the Future …*


I assign you (as I do my students) to have a beautiful day. Set aside a free day this month to indulge in your favorite pleasures. Pamper yourself. Design, in writing, what you will do from hour to hour. Use as many of the techniques above as you can. Do not let the bustle of life interfere, and carry out the plan. (111)

Pleasures vs. Gratifications – Understanding & Enhancing the Various Types of Happiness In the Present …*


Head over to the Authentic Happiness website, and under, the tab labeled “Questionnaires” you will find the VIA Strengths Survey. You will need to create an account on the website and there is a fee to take the test, I did it and thought it was worth it. You will receive a 30 page detailed report of your character strengths in rank order. You will also learn about the benefits of each of your signature strengths, ways to cultivate them and avoid the pitfalls of mismanaging your aptitudes. 

Once you have taken the survey, Seligman’s next exercise is to evaluate your results–do the strengths the survey identified feel authentic to you?

Typically you will have five or fewer scores of 9 or 10, and these are your highest strengths, at least as your reported them. […] You will also have several low scores in the 4 (or lower) to 6 range, and these are your weaknesses.

Look at the list of your top five strengths. Most of these will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. My strengths on this test were love of learning, perseverance, leadership, originality, and spirituality. Four of these feel like the real me, but leadership is not one. I can lead quite adequately if I am forced to, but it isn’t a strength that I own. When I use it, I feel drained, I count the hours until it is done, and I am delighted when the task is over and I’m back with my family.

I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
  • A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
  • Invigorating rather than exhaustion while using the strength
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.

If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. (160)

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life …*


Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

Buzzwords Can Be Dangerous If They Don’t Promote Sustainable Changes In Thinking, Doing & Shared Understanding …*

Buzzwords Can Be Dangerous If They Don’t Promote Sustainable Changes In Thinking, Doing & Shared Understanding ...* | rethinked.org

You may find the confession I’m about to make a bit strange given how central design thinking is to our team’s work as well as my rethinked*annex side project. But here it goes: I am sick and tired of talking about design thinking. As you know, design thinking is a huge buzzword right now in innovation and management circles. Unfortunately, most conversations and articles about the discipline center on either embracing it as a cure-all methodology for every single one of our innovation and creativity woes or decrying it as a depthless, overhyped, passing fad. I find these two binary views to critically miss the point about what design thinking is and what it can offer.

Just yesterday, browsing LinkedIn’s “Management Consulting” news tab, I found two separate articles detailing the woes of design thinking. In “Design Thinking” Destroyed Us, Brian de Haaff  writes:

The problem is when this approach is fervently adopted as the only approach to solving challenges and delivering great customer experiences. And this is where it all went wrong. Everything looked like a problem that we could “design think” our way out of to the UX teams.

Even problems that no one on the product team thought were customer or business problems became ripe for long design-centered studies by people who never previously spoke with customers and definitely did not grok our product.

I see three big problems with the above passage. First, nothing about design thinking mandates that it should be embraced as a step by step recipe. “When this approach is fervently adopted as the only approach to solving challenges” –who is doing the fervent, exclusive, adoption? That is a result of the company’s culture and management, not the discipline of design thinking itself. The second issue is the “long design-centered studies” that he describes. As IDEO’s Kelley brothers like to say, “Fail faster, succeed sooner.” Design thinking is about rapid prototyping and iteration, not months of market research. Also, and perhaps more worryingly, why are these studies being conducted by people who are not at all plugged in to the environment of the challenge they are trying to solve–those “people who never previously spoke with customers and definitely did not grok our product”? If there were a design thinking mandate it would be to empathize. Design thinking is, above all, human-centered–meaning the solutions focus on the actual perspective and experience of the people invested in the challenge, not on unexplored assumptions of what that experience might be.

The third big issue here is “everything looked like a problem that we could “design think”.” I think this statement reflects a serious misunderstanding of the design thinking process. It is not simply a list of steps to problem solve, it’s a way to explore and redefine the problem landscape to uncover more holistic and potent solutions. One of the major benefits of design thinking is how richly it allows one to explore and reframe the problem one is trying to solve. In design thinking, teams use an initial definition of the challenge at hand as a springboard for further exploration. I have never participated in a design thinking challenge where the initial statement of the problem wasn’t later reframed and recrafted.

de Haaff goes on to list some of the specific reasons why his company’s “application of design thinking destroyed progress and fractured the UX groups from the product and engineering teams“:

“The core issue was that design thinking fundamentally requires that no matter how obvious the solution may seem, many solutions must be created for consideration and testing.” 

Again, design thinking doesn’t fundamentally require anything–it’s a tool. If you had to mow your lawn and you had at your disposal a lawn mower and a pair of scissors and decided to use the scissors, when you found yourself exhausted and discouraged at having wasted your afternoon cutting only a small patch of grass with your scissors instead of finishing the job in an hour with the lawn mower, you wouldn’t blame your scissors for the poor outcome, would you? Tools are just tools, their impact and effectiveness depends on how we choose to use them.

I do not mean to pick on Mr. de Haaff, but I think his article illustrates a lot of the problematic ways in which design thinking is being framed and experienced. Design thinking is a human-centered problem solving methodology–it gives us a framework and a set of tools to problem solve. It is neither a miracle nor a curse, it is what we make it. Which is what makes Tamara Christensen‘s interview on think jar collective about Demystifying Design Thinking such a refreshing and important read:

Buzzwords can be dangerous if they don’t promote sustainable changes in thinking and doing, and shared understanding. They can be easily dismissed. Ironically, I find that most designers have trouble clarifying exactly how they think and making their own process explicit for others. The most simple definition of design that I use is by Herbert Simon, from Sciences of the Artificial (MIT Press, 1969) where he describes design as “transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones”. Design thinking, therefore, is basically about the kind of mental activity that facilitates this transformation. Fortunately IDEO and the d.school at Stanford (among others) have done a great job of promoting the process and providing a wealth of information about how it’s done and why it’s valuable.

I think the biggest obstacle to understanding Design Thinking is to treat it as a rigid process, a series of steps that must be followed in a particular sequence. I have seen this happen time and again when a team tries to apply Design Thinking with questionable success and then decides “Design Thinking doesn’t work.” In reality, what doesn’t work is treating Design Thinking like a recipe that must be adhered to. It is more like a mindset, multiple modes of thinking and doing that are iteratively utilized as the project requires. Design Thinking is first and foremost about people and keeping them at the center of the process.

The most common modes are Empathize (with humans), Frame (an opportunity from the perspective of a human), Ideate (about how to address the opportunity), Prototype (possible solutions) and Test (your ideas with people using the prototypes).


  1. It is human-centered and people-powered, keep stakeholders engaged as much as possible.
  2. Empathy is an essential and transformational experience for fueling creativity.
  3. Prototyping is about building to think and test ideas. The faster we fail, the better.

Source: Demystifying Design Thinking: Interview With Tamara Christensen via Think Jar Collective

Debbie Millman on Finding Inner Courage, Taking Responsibility for Your Own Happiness & Growing Into Your Self …*

“Imagine immensities. Try to pick yourself up from rejection. And, plow ahead. Don’t compromise. Start now. Start now, every single day.” -Debbie Millman on what it means to her to live a good life.

Is It Really Possible To Design Your Life via The Good Life Project, published April 23, 2014.

Here is a wonderful interview with Debbie Millman by Jonathan Fields of The Good Life Project. In this hour long conversation Debbie, with her characteristic honesty, intelligence and elegance, shares how she has designed her life, and attempted to create and own a sense of meaning and purpose in the process. 


“I very very recently found diaries–I kept diaries from 1973 until 1992–and I’ve been going through them and reading them all and I realized just how low I felt and how hopeless I felt about life. It’s sort of interesting, I think as you grow as a person, as a human being, you sort of somehow think you’re still the same person, you’re just bringing all of those experiences along and yes, you’ve realized more, but you’re intrinsically the same person. And I guess, I’ve been thinking a lot about that because now that I’m in my fifties, I feel like I’m still fourteen. But then when I went back and read my journals at fourteen, or my diaries, I am definitely not fourteen and I am nothing like that fourteen year old person, nor am I like the thirty-two or forty-two year old person. But going through that is what gives you that clarity–seeing how far you’ve actually come. How there isn’t quite as much self-loathing. How there isn’t quite as much insecurity–it’s still there but it’s not the prevailing emotion.”


“The one common denominator that I can share with anybody that feels self-loathing, or insecurity in their twenties, or thirties, or forties, or fifties, is don’t give up hope that that might not ever go away because I think it does. I’ve done about, now, two-hundred interviews, I’m close to my two-hundredth episode of Design Matters and then there’s been all sorts of live events that I’ve done over the years and then all the interviews that I’ve done for Brand Thinking and How to Think Like A Great Graphic Designer, and the one common denominator that I can share that great brand thinkers, great cultural commentators, great designers have shared with me over the years is that they all feel like they have to get up everyday and do it again. They all feel like they very well may be discovered as phonies, they very well may never ever achieve what they’d hoped. The only two people in all the years that I’ve done this that have been different in that–that have had a different experience in articulating who they are and what they believe–are Milton Glaser and Massimo Vignelli. But I think the common denominator that they share, is that they’re both in their eighties. They’re both in their eighties. I think by the time we’re eighty, we’ll be like, “ok, you know, this is who I am.” Either that or you don’t have any idea who you are. “


“You have to make your own happiness, wherever you are–your job isn’t going to make you happy, your spouse isn’t going to make you happy, the weather isn’t going to make you happy, a restaurant isn’t going to make you happy. I think you have to decide what you want and you have to find that way of doing it, whether or not the outside circumstances are going to participate in your success. And for people that want to create something meaningful, if you’re not getting it at work, then do it at home. If you’re not getting it everyday in the workplace, self-generate your own work. Make what you need to do to be happy. Even if other people think it’s crap, even if other people think it’s terrible. You have to be able to create your own happiness, period.” 


“That’s why I took Milton [Glaser]’s class, it was touted as a really good class for people mid-career that wanted to shift the focus of what they were doing and sort of find their inner courage. And it changed my life, it absolutely changed my life. Where, suddenly, Milton was very very clear about defending your life, about owning your choices, about making the choices that you hold yourself to as if you had no issue with succeeding. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about being successful? And he has you envision your whole life–your entire life, five years from that moment in time–if you could do anything in the world that you wanted, what would it be? And you have to own it, you have to defend it, you have to declare it. And he talked about the magic in that exercise. And how over the fifty years he’s been teaching, that this particular class was the most important class that he taught and how it transforms lives. He talked about how he’d always heard from people that that exercise, that class, was the defining moment–the before and the after–and that was what it was for me. And suddenly I had this scenario, this vision, and that is what I think has helped propel me to lead a more purposeful life.”


“I’m afraid to give up stuff. I’ll take on new things and still do the old stuff. That’s become a little bit untenable […] I’m a big proponent of “busy is a decision”–you decide what you want to do and the things that are important to you and you don’t find the time to do things, you make the time to do things. And if you aren’t doing them because you are “too busy,” it’s likely it’s not as much of a priority as is what it is you’re actually doing. And that could be watching reruns of Law and Order SVU, you know, I do that all the time, but you have to own that and you have to really say, “Ok, I know that this isn’t as important to me as watching Olivia Benson get the bad guys.” I think knowing it helps.”


“What I’ve done, because I am so afraid of giving something secure up for the unknown, is I’ve kept the secure and then taken on the unknown. You know, there’s that scene in the third installment of Indiana Jones, where Harrison Ford just takes a step–I think you have to do that. I don’t think you can achieve anything meaningful without taking it. […] I think in order to take that next step you literally have to take the step and hope the ground is beneath you.”  


“In that class with Milton, I made a list–I love lists–I made a list of all the things that I still dreamt that I could do or achieve or experience. And it wasn’t a bucket list, it was like twelve things and I put the list away. I finished Milton’s class and then I started to try ever so sort of elegantly, or inelegantly, to take the steps to try to get a few of those things. And once a year now I reread the essay that I wrote and then I look at the list and it’s mind-boggling because there are things on the list that I actually forgot we’re on the list and it’s scary how so many of them have become something that has manifested. And you know, Milton says it’s magic, maybe it is.”

listen & rethink …

{ Question Day 2014 & Vuja De } Making the Ordinary Unknown To Rethink Anything …*

{ Question Day 2014 & Vuja De } Making the Ordinary Unknown To Rethink Anything ...* | rethinked.org

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” -Albert Einstein

Break out your party hats because today we’re celebrating Albert Einstein’s 135th birthday and one of my all time favorites– questions! That’s right, inquiry now has its own day of celebration, Question Day, thanks to author of the new book: A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger, and the nonprofit The Right Question Institute who partnered to sponsor a one-day event designed to increase appreciation of the importance of questioning.

The day will be marked by an extensive social media campaign encouraging people across the Internet to share their stories and thoughts about the importance of curiosity and questioning in their lives, or to share their own meaningful questions—all designed to create a national conversation around questioning. We are also inviting teachers in schools to set aside time that day to tell students about the importance of questioning, encouraging kids to ask “beautiful questions” of their own.

To learn more about Question Day 2014 and discover ways to get involved, head over to the microsite QuestionDay2014.

Speaking of Warren Berger, he had a fantastic article in the Harvard Business Review a couple days ago about the power of reframing to spark innovation. Through his article I learned a new term–vuja de–which expresses something I hold extremely dear: making the ordinary unknown. As you may know, a core principle of our team is the belief that rethinking is greater than inventing. We’re not trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel, we’re trying to see and experience it with fresh eyes and open minds to broaden its landscape of possibilities { shoshin }; hence our motto: making the ordinary unknown to rethink * anything. And that’s precisely what late comedian’ George Carlin’s term: vuja de means. In his article, Can You See The Opportunity Right In Front of You? Warren Berger describes Carlin’s vuja de:

That term was made up by Carlin, in a bit of wordplay that put a twist on the familiar concept of déjà vu, that sensation of being in a strange circumstance yet feeling as if you’ve been there before. Imagine the reverse of that: you’re in a situation that is very familiar, something you’ve seen or done countless times before, but you feel as if you’re experiencing something completely new. This is vuja de, Carlin told his audience: “the strange feeling that, somehow, none of this has ever happened before.”

[ … ]

Of course, vuja de isn’t just a way of looking at things; it involves a certain mindset that questions assumptions and refuses to accept things as they are.

Berger goes on to describe the rich history between vuja de and innovation:

Stanford University professor Bob Sutton, author of the new book Scaling Up for Excellence, was among the first to make a connection, more than a decade ago, between the Carlin vuja de perspective and innovation. Sutton, and later Tom Kelley of IDEO, pointed out that innovators could potentially spark new ideas and insights if they could somehow manage to look at the familiar—their own products, their customers, their work processes—as if seeing it for the first time. Adopting this view, business leaders and managers might be more apt to notice inconsistencies and outdated methods, as well as untapped opportunities.

Read the rest of Berger’s article and learn more about combining vuja de observation with entrepreneurial action to yield big impact.

“When the familiar becomes this sort of alien world and you can see it fresh, then it’s like you’ve gone into a whole other section of the file folder in your brain. And now you have access to this other perspective that most people don’t have.” – Kelly Carlin

question, rethink & take action …* 

Source Can You See the Opportunity Right In Front Of You? via Harvard Business Review, published March 12, 2014.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org



Design Is Both the Insanely Radical and the Passionately Incremental ~ via GigaOM, published  October 6, 2012.

At Google, a Place to Work and Play ~ rethinking…* work space and happiness. via The New York Times, published March 15, 2013.

Talent Isn’t Fixed and Other Mindsets That Lead to Greatness ~ Interview with Carol Dweck on how a “growth mindset” can impact creative achievement on a personal & professional level. via 99u.

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success ~ via The Atlantic, published December 29, 2011.

Toyo Ito: the ‘dropout robot’ who never tires of reinventing himself ~ via The Guardian, published March 19, 2013.

The Stories That Bind Us ~ Fascinating concept connecting narration of family histories and reslience+happiness…* via The New York Times, published March 15, 2013.


Kidb ~ A short animation that raises important questions regarding the state of education today. via Darren Bartholomew on Vimeo, published January 2013.

Big History: David Christian Covers 13.7 Billion Years of History in 18 Minutes ~ via Open Culture, published March 19, 2013

Break + Make: Education – “How do we prepare students for tomorrow’s economy ~ via 92ndStreetY & IDEO, published March 20, 2013.

Eon Billings & Duncan Jackson on creating a tangible impact on the feel & character of an urban space ~ via PSFK, published March 20, 2013.


9 Crazy Skyscrapers That Will Shape The Skylines Of The Future ~ via FastCo.Exist, published March 18, 2013.

Ergonomic Chair for School Kids Encourages Good Posture ~ ‘Ray’ by Simon Dennehy. via PSFK, published March 21, 2013.

Google now allows you to visit Mt. Everest, Kilimanjaro & other breathtaking locations ~ via TreeHugger, published March 19, 2013

Musical Swings by Daily Tous Les Jours for EmpathiCITY exhibition ~ via Designboom, published March 20, 2013.


Explore the future of education: The Power of Digital Education Collection ~ MIT Technology Review.

An Online Course in How to Listen to Orchestras ~ via S4MU, published March 9, 2013.

A Master List of 700 Free Courses From Great Universities ~ via Open Culture, published March 5, 2013.

Discover Design Thinking: Articles, Videos & Other Useful Links…*

When I set out on my Design Thinking experiementation for rethinked*annex, I had two main goals: understand how design thinking might contribute to enhanced well-being with my daily life and create and curate a database of Design Thinking resources. By the end of the cycle, I hoped to have:

  • Quotes from the book on which I based my exploration of Design Thinking: Tim Brown’s Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
  • A review of the book
  • A list of resources from the book
    • Descriptions and links to the studies, authors, people, ideas and movements mentioned in the book
    • A glossary of relevant terms
    • A list of resources pertaining to the field as a whole
      • Links, videos, articles and descriptions of other major players, contested or opposing ideas, history, offshoots and influences.

While I believe I did not push myself as much as I should have in terms of experimenting with the discipline in my daily life (due to my chronic DOING handicap and obsession with overthinking…more on that in next week’s post), I am quite pleased with the database I have curated and hope that you will find the resources I have gathered here as instructive and delightful as I did.

You will find design thinking related talks and articles, a reading list of recommended books on the subject and list of related resources as well as concrete examples of Design Thinking in action. I have also made an index of all my rethinked*annex design thinking posts for easy browsing.

While the Design Thinking portion of rethinked*annex is coming to an end, I will continue to update the database with relevant links and information over the course of the year so be sure to revisit our Design Thinking page every so often.

CORRECTION: In last week’s rethinked*annex status update, I mistakenly wrote that the Implementation/Prototyping phase of rethinked*annex’s Design Thinking cycle had ended. This was a misreading of my calendar, the Implementation/Prototyping phase goes through to November 13th and the last two weeks of November are for reflection. WOOHOO for more ‘official’ prototyping time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an indoor herb garden to plant.

Enjoy and Rethink…



How to recognize Design Thinkers ~ Since Roger Martin and others hijacked the term ‘designthinking’, there is an ongoing dispute. Two thought worlds exist and possibly these can be united by laying bare the essential characteristics of a ‘design thinker’. via Team Cognition, published October 30, 2012.

Rethinking Design Thinking, Part I ~ The term design thinking has gained attention over the past decade in a wide range of contexts beyond the traditional preoccupations of designers. The main idea is that the ways professional designers problem-solve is of value to firms trying to innovate and to societies trying to make change happen. This paper reviews the origins of the term design thinking in research about designers and its adoption by management educators and consultancies within a dynamic, global mediatized economy. Three main accounts are identified: design thinking as a cognitive style, as a general theory of design, and as a resource for organizations. The paper argues there are several issues that undermine the claims made for design thinking. The first is how many of these accounts rely on a dualism between thinking and knowing, and acting in the world. Second, a generalized design thinking ignores the diversity of designers’ practices and institutions which are historically situated. The third is how design thinking rests on theories of design that privilege the designer as the main agent in designing. Instead the paper proposes that attending to the situated, embodied routines of designers and others offers a useful way to rethink design thinking. via Ingenta Connect, published November, 2011.

Rethinking Design Thinking: Part II ~ This paper uses resources from anthropology and science and technology studies to propose understanding design expertise and activity as constituted materially and discursively in practice. Introducing a pair of concepts – design-as-practice and designs-in-practice – as an analytical device for discussing design solves a number of problems facing researchers working in design studies. First, it helps researchers see design as a situated, local accomplishment involving diverse and multiple actors. Second, it acknowledges the roles of objects in constituting practices. Third, it de-centers the designer as the main agent in designing. This approach moves away from a disembodied, ahistorical design thinking to a situated, contingent set of practices carried by professional designers and those who engage with designs, which recognizes the materiality of designed things and the material and discursive practices through which they come to matter. via Ingenta Connect, published July 2012.

How Apple’s “Little” Approach Leads to Big Wins ~ The right process brings the right people to the table—the “product guys” as Bob Lutz called them, who really get the customers and the trade-offs they are forced to make today. A good process also keeps the focus on the right criteria, insisting that the key to success is not the state of the technology, or diversity of products being pumped out, or number of features, but instead how delightful your products are, how simple they are, how easy they are to use. via Harvard Business Review, published October 23, 2012.

The Business of the Design of Business ~ Business has officially taken notice of design. The interest goes deeper than marketing the design features of a product, prompting business strategists to tap into design methods for innovative ways of solving traditional business problems. “Design Thinking” has become a hot topic among today’s MBA students. Apple is hard to ignore, and everyone wants a slice. via Metropolis Magazine, published October 31, 2012.

Wait a Minute Makers: Before Agencies Can “Make Things” They Need to Create “Makeable Ideas” ~ one doesn’t simply start thinking like a designer or engineer after spending years thinking like an artist or author. All of those professions have built formal modes of thinking that best suit the output they create. Thinking in the same way to create a different solution is unlikely to produce the desired results. Rather, you must first mentally step back, then shift laterally, then dive into the new style of thinking. In other words, before agencies can create “makeable things” they need to create “makeable ideas.” via FastCo.Create, published November 7, 2012

Dignifying Design ~ John Cary and Courtney Martin discuss some of Public Interest Design‘s biggest successes, including the beautiful, patient-centered Butaro Hospital in Rwanda and Ideo.org’s work on rethinking sanitation in Ghana. via The New York Times, published October 6, 2012.

Design Thinking: Making Better Stuff or Making a Better World? ~ A review of Design & Thinking, a documentary funded via a successful Kickstarter campaign and featuring interviews with a some of the world’s best design minds, including laptop inventor and IDEO cofounder Bill Moggridge, Smart Design cofounder Dan Formosa, and AIGA CEO Richard Grefe. via TechVibes, published October 31, 2012.

Design Thinking Starts at the Top ~ Even though design thinking requires participation from many different sectors of a business, there is no question that this is an initiative that has to be led and implemented from the very top by a management committed to the process. Unless there is a strong figure there to properly determine what shape design thinking will ultimate take, there will be no firm direction and there will be no significant follow-through. via Fast Company, published November 2, 2012

Pinterest’s Founding Designer Shares His Dead-Simple Design Philosophy ~ Sahil Lavingia on why design shouldn’t be designated a specific function or industry. The discipline is just as fundamental as technology and profit are to a business that it doesn’t need to be isolated to a single role. It should be considered part of every role. via FastCo.Design, published March 7, 2012.

Design Firms Go Beyond Gadgets As Portfolios Expand~ On the rise and ubiquity of design thinking: Bay Area design firms behind iconic technology products like the mouse and the Macintosh computer are broadening their portfolios. Health-care companies, nonprofits and industrial giants are among those tapping these and other designers to conceive not just gadgets but new software, business strategies and even school systems. The expansion has happened gradually but is accelerating as firms seek to connect with design-savvy customers. via The Wall Street Journal, published October 31, 2012.

What Astronauts And Toddlers Can Teach You About Consumers ~ When collecting data on consumer behavior, tune into the noise–the patterns that drive human perception, argues Method’s Paul Valerio. via FastCo.Design, published November 1, 2012.

Introduction to Design Studio Methodology ~ Design Studio is conducted in a highly interactive, fast-paced team setting following a methodology commonly used in architecture and industrial design, but with some important twists. It has been called the “Iron Chef,” of ideation. It can be intense, focused, and chaotic at times, but those lucky enough to have participated understand the power and effectiveness of this tool. via UX Magazine, published April 24, 2012.

Design Thinking for Social Good: An Interview with David Kelley ~ Avi Solomon interviews David Kelley founder of IDEO and Standford’s d.school on the importance of anthropological fieldwork in design, Needfinding, the definition of design, Steve Jobs and more design thinking gold. via BoinBoing.net, published September 22, 2012.

Clinton Global Initiative 2012: IDEO CEO Tim Brown on Where Designers Often Go Wrong ~ Shortly after former president Bill Clinton delivered his opening remarks welcoming attendees to The Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting Sunday, Brown took to the stage with Fast Company Editor Linda Tischler. The topic was the conference’s main theme: “Designing for Impact”. via The Washington Post, published September 25, 2012.

Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, is interviewed on the subject of ‘design thinking’—approaching managerial problems as designers approach design problems—and its potential impact on management education. Under a design-thinking paradigm, students would be encouraged to think broadly about problems, develop a deep understanding of users, and recognize the value in the contributions of others. In Martin’s view, the concept of design thinking can potentially address many of the criticisms currently being leveled at MBA programs. The interview is followed by a discussion and critique of the themes Martin raises. via Academy of Management, Learning & Education 2008

Demonstrating the Value of Design Thinking by Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel Difficult interactions between design teams and business leaders represent a big stumbling block in the development of breakthrough ideas. How often is innovation stopped short by number-crunchers who don’t understand the process of design or the insights afforded by it? And how often do business folks moan that designers lack even the most basic understanding of costs and strategy, of how to turn ideas into dollars? via Bbetween: Journal of the Billy Blue College of Design, March 2010.

Your Start-Up Life: Design Your Thinking ~ 2012 Interview with Tim Brown via Huff Post: Business.

Why Decisions Need Design part I ~ More than anything else, the modern corporation has become a decision factory, observes Roger Martin. Find out how to be a great corporate decision designer by using Design Thinking mindset and methodology. via Bloomsberg Businessweek Online’s Innovation Channel, August 2005

Why Decisions Need Design Part II ~ More than anything else, the modern corporation has become a decision factory, observes Roger Martin. Find out how to be a great corporate decision designer by using Design Thinking mindset and methodology. via Bloomsberg Businessweek Online’s Innovation Channel, August 2005

Overthinking Design Thinking ~ by Jody Turner. ‘Recently Portland’s Design Management Institute conference (DMI) ended with a bang by asking a panel of experts, “Is Design Thinking Dead?” As I look over the conversation, it is clear that thinking is changing but not in large ways. It seems everything is getting abbreviated, perhaps because we are getting better at it, perhaps because we are tired of the hoopla. Either way, this review of the panel shows the range of considerations occurring in the design profession’. Fast Company August 2012

Design Thinking as A Leadership Toolkit ~ Observations on some ‘truths about the connection between design and leadership that emerged from ‘trying to contextualize design thinking as a leadership skill – to nurture leaders grounded in human needs, able to identify and formulate insightful problem statements, capable of generating rich and viable ideas, and the agility to pivot when things (inevitably) turn out different than you think.’ via Learning is Leading. August 2012

To Design is to Understand Uncertainty James Self explores uncertainty and what contributions it can make to design activity and design thinking. via Core77 August 2012

Tim Brown on Design Thinking ~ Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes—and even strategy. Harvard Business Review 2008

Writing is Design Too The Atlantic July 26, 2012

“Design Thinking” Isn’t A Miracle Cure but Here’s How it Helps The term has come in for a lot of scorn. But it’s because we haven’t been clear about what it actually entails, argues Helen Walters. FastCo.design 2011

Thinking About Design Thinking Find out why Fred Collopy grows “more bothered by the week with the phrase “design thinking.”” And why he thinks “it is an unfortunate term for describing what designers have to offer to other disciplines, which seems the most common reason for using the term. As is a way of talking about what designers can contribute to areas beyond the domains in which they have traditionally worked, about how they can improve the tasks of structuring interactions, organizations, strategies and societies, it is a weak term. FastCompany 2009

Design Thinking Battle–Managers Embrace Design Thinking, Designers Reject It ~ Bruce Nussbaum on “the clumsiness of the term Design Thinking” and the power of doing embedded in the discipline, “It is a way of thinking about doing on a strategically big scale–a new learning experience for all children, a better health-care experience for older people, a more honest political system for voters.”  BusinessWeek.com 2009

Design Thinking is a Failed Experiment. So what’s next? Bruce Nussbaum, one of design thinking’s biggest advocates, is moving on to something new. Here, he begins defining creative quotient. FastCompany 2011

Design Thinking…What Is That? The methodology commonly referred to as design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results. Mark Dziersk, FastCompany 2006

What is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools and Resources ~ Learn more about user experience design, an important facet of design thinking, in the context of Web-based systems such as websites and applications. via Art Years, published October 30, 2010.

What is Design Thinking Anyway? ~ ‘Design thinking’ is defined as “the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.” Intuitively it makes sense to want to understand the people and the world you are designing for before you make something, and insight in itself is not a dead concept, so why all the debate around whether design thinking is dead or alive? via PSFK, published June 9, 2012

The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use ~ How do Google, Facebook and IDEO jumpstart the process that leads to innovation? Often by using the same three words: How Might We. Some of the most successful companies in business today are known for tackling difficult creative challenges by first asking, How might we improve X … or completely re-imagine Y… or find a new way to accomplish Z? via Harvard Business Review, published September 17, 2012

Design Thinking’s Timely Death ~ William Storage, visiting scholar UC Berkeley Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society thinks Design Thinking, as a discipline, is contaminated.”There’s too much sleaze in the field. Let’s bury it and get back to basics like good design. Everyone already knows that solution-focus is as essential as problem-focus. Stop arguing the point. If good design doesn’t convince the world that design should be fully integrated into business and society, another over-caffeinated Design Thinking book isn’t likely to do so either.” via The Multidisciplinarian, published June 11, 2012.


Design Thinking for Educators ~ Dominic Randolph, Head of Riverdale Country School, won a grant in 2012 from the E. Ford Foundation to teach Design Thinking to Educators and to spread its adaption and implementation across the country. This seven minute film documents the program and its successes. via Paul Dewey on Vimeo, published November 6, 2012.

(Design Thinking for Educators – Dominic Randolph from paul dewey on Vimeo.)

Design the New Business~ Design and business can no longer be thought of as distinct activities with individual goals. Design the New Business is a film dedicated to investigating how designers and businesspeople are working together in new ways to solve the wicked problems facing business today.The short documentary examines how they are joining forces by bringing together an international collection of design service providers, education experts and businesses that have incorporated design as a part of their core approach. Design the New Business features inspiring case studies and insightful discussions, helping to illustrate the state of the relationship and how it needs to continue evolving to meet tomorrow’s challenges. via  on Vimeo, published November 2011.

Design the New Business – English subtitles from dthenewb on Vimeo.

Design Thinking for Scholars (DTFS) Webinar on Design Thinking for Scholars, held on June 20, 2012. Design Thinking for Scholars is an ongoing effort to develop and test a framework for challenge-based research. This is being driven by the efforts of the Network of Leadership Scholars, a community of practice affiliated with the Academy of Management (AOM.) This project builds on an existing product/process that has a shown initial success and potential.


Roger Martin on Design Thinking ~ Roger Martin, a leading proponent of design thinking in business, makes the case that we can understand innovation through a new model of how businesses advance knowledge over time, and that businesses fail to innovate when they show greater concern for producing reliable (predictable and reproducible) outcomes than valid ones that actually meet objectives. Martin argues that businesses can do a better job at innovating—and advancing knowledge—if they embrace design thinking. Using examples such as Procter & Gamble, RIM (BlackBerry) and Cirque du Soleil, he examines how companies transform themselves into successful design-thinking organizations. via AIGA Make/Think Conference, October 2009.


Frameworks for Design Thinking Stanford Innovation Masters Series 2011


Tim Brown Urges Designers to Think Big TEDGlobal 2009


Tim Brown Tales of Creativity & Play Serious Play 2008


Tim Brown From Design to Design Thinking 2008


Heather Fraser: Design Thinking ~ Heather talks about Design Thinking and shares some of the strategies and tactics for embedding the practice of ‘business design’ into an enterprise, based on her work at DesignWorks. via Norsk Designråd on Vimeo, published November 2011.

Heather Fraser – Design Thinking from Norsk Designråd on Vimeo.


John Hockenberry: Why We Are All Designers TED 2012


Emily Piloton Teaching Design for Change TEDGlobal 2010


How To Lie With Design Thinking ~ Dan Saffer’s (hilarious) critique of Design Thinking at the Interaction Design Association Conference 2012.

Dan Saffer: How to Lie With Design Thinking from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.


Eddie Opara on Design Thinking Design Thinking Foundations 2012

Eddie Opara talks about Design Thinking from Design Thinking Foundations on Vimeo.

Jon Kolko on Design Thinking Design Thinking Foundations 2012

Jon Kolko: What is Design Thinking from Design Thinking Foundations on Vimeo.

Design & Thinking: A Documentary About Design Thinking ~ Design Thinking was applied as a term and methodology by a design firm in 2008. It was received as a tool to solve every problem, from daily life decisions to business challenges to world hunger problems. Attention and debates followed; some insisted on design education in all K-12 schools, some declared it is just marketing tool for that firm, some hoped it would turn his company into Apple. Some said it’s nothing new, just a new packaging of how creative people do things.




Initial Thoughts on Change by Design ~ My review of Tim Brown’s book Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation and a short overview of the themes and ideas of Design Thinking that I found most relevant and intriguing. Published July 26, 2012.

Rethinking material…* Quotes from Tim Brown’s Change By Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation ~ a selection of my favorites quotes from IDEO’s Tim Brown’s book, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Published July 27, 2012.

Rethinked*Annex Design Thinking Kickoff  ~ A brief overview of how I intend to set up my exploration of Design Thinking. Published September 4, 2012.

On the Power of Full Engagement ~ Because I am well aware of my deficiency in the doing/execution department, I prepared for the upcoming ‘doing’ onslaught that the Design Thinking emphasis on prototypes had in store for me by reading Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. In their book Loehr and Schwartz draw on years of experience helping some of the world’s greatest athletes perform at their best to help the rest of us achieve full engagement and high performance in whichever task we are engaged in.published September 7, 2012.

Let’s talk about design thinking…* ~ An overview of the Rethinked*annex Design Thinking database. published September 11, 2012.

On Why Defining A Challenge is an Act of Leadership ~ Design Thinking is a mindset but it is also a process and an inherently collaborative process at that. The collaborative part has me stumped a bit on my quest to use Design Thinking to address challenges in my own life. I have to be the interviewer and the interviewee for the discovery period, riff off my own ideas in the brainstorming/prototype phase of the process, create and heed my own feedback during evolution and try to bring a fresh and outsider perspective to the fabric of my everyday–the myriad moments and acts that are such an integral part of my daily existence that they often occur on some level rarely noticed by my conscious mind. I have been trying to define a few challenges to focus on next month, a process which has given me a whole new appreciation for what is meant by “defining a challenge is an act of leadership”. Published September 13, 2012.

Contextualizing the three rethinked*annex disciplines: Integrative Thinking, Design Thinking & Positive Psychology ~ It was a passing mention of Daniel Pink‘s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainer Will Rule The World in Tim Brown‘s Change By Design that prompted my interest in the book. If Brown mentioned it, I hoped it would help me gain a deeper understanding of some aspect of the design thinking process; which it did, although not in the way I expected. I did not learn more about the process itself but I did learn how to think about it along with Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology–three of the rethinked*annex cycles–in a more nuanced, complex and holistic way. published September 18, 2012.

Empathy, Perspective, & the Perils of Design Thinking Dates ~ I decided to make use of the great resources over on the Stanford d.school website and take their 90 minute virtual crash course in design thinking. Wanting to really ‘live’ out design thinking in my everyday, I enlisted my boyfriend, Matt, to be my partner for the course and attempted to make a date of it. published September 26, 2012.

Road Map for Design Thinking Implementation Process ~ My reflections on my Design Thinking experiments. Because rethinked*annex is a prototype itself–a new way to experiment with one’s behaviors and outlook on life–it is important that I take the time to reflect and seek feedback on what is working and what needs improvement along each stages so that I can keep the project evolving. Published October 1, 2012.

The Importance of Positive Rituals in Freeing Creative Energy ~ A follow up post to On The Power of Full Engagement. To be able to fully engage with our deepest held values on a daily basis, Loehr and Schwartz recommend building small, incremental, highly precise rituals–behavioral expressions of our values–in all dimensions of our lives to be able to fully engage and strategically disengage when necessary. Published October 3, 2012

Rethinked*Annex Status Update: Pattern Recognition & How Might We’s ~ This past week I started the brainstorming phase of my design thinking challenge for rethinking…* the eating experience. After visually laying out the topography of the eating environment, I wrote down memories and associations for each item as well as reflected on memorable eating experiences. I then spent some time trying to figure out how they all come together in various themes important to me as the intended user. The aim of establishing these themes is to better articulate HMWs to approach the challenge. Published October 11, 2012.

Insights from Parsons’ Learn.Engage.Design Prototyping Workshop ~ Insights and observations from a design thinking workshop I attended at Parsons The New School of Design with Lisa Grocott’s Transdisciplinary Design Students. Published September 27, 2012.

Rethinked* Annex: Dinners From Around The World Prototype 1.0 ~ A description of one of the prototypes I did for Rethinking…* the Eating experience.The idea behind the Dinners from Around the World prototype is based on one of the themes that I identified from my observations of the aspects of eating and cooking that are meaningful, enjoyable and important to me. The theme is tradition: I noticed that many of my most memorable eating experiences were embedded in tradition- Christmas feasts, my mother’s crepes for the Chandeleur, my father’s cacio e peppe at the first real chill of fall— but all come from my childhood and I haven’t experienced many of them in a long time. October 16, 2012.

Ideo’s Tim Brown on Failure…* ~ Tim Brown on embracing failure. Published November 1, 2012.

Rethinked*Annex ~ Design Thinking the Ordinary & Daily Life Prototypes ~ An overview of the themes, ideas and prototypes to come out of my Design Thinking experimentation. published November 2, 2012.




San Francisco Urban Prototyping Festival ~ Prototype the change you want to see in the world.

Prototyping The Urban Environment With Garden Urinals And Staircase Slides ~ In cities across North America, tiny parks known as “parklets” have begun to take over parking spots in front of storefronts, creating spaces for passersby to congregate, lounge, and park their bikes. Parklets are just one piece of a larger movement to take back underutilized public spaces in cities. This past weekend, San Francisco’s Urban Prototyping Festival, held in the city’s troubled yet evolving Central Market neighborhood, showcased creative innovations from local residents that aim to make the urban environment more livable. via FastCo.Design, published October 25, 2012.

Inspired School Redesign: The Floating Schools of Bangladesh~ In Bangladesh, 20% of the country goes underwater each year. Severe flooding prevents students from attending school for a good portion of time. In any given year, dozens if not hundreds of schools are destroyed. Even more schools are shut down because kids cannot get to school. In Easy Like Water, filmmaker Glenn Baker shares the inspirational story of how a community came together to build solar-powered floating schools. Not only can students attend school year-round, they can take part in digital learning. via Education Week, published October 30, 2012.

Why the ‘Trick-or-Treat Test’ Still Matters~ Once a year at Halloween, community designers and urbanists conjure up the “the trick-or-treat test” (guilty as charged) as a way into sparking discussion about where we live and how our communities are designed. The test, which all stems from the concept of how easily kids can find the front door to a house on Halloween and then move on to the next one, has been useful in getting a broader range of people thinking about how suburban house design relates to more livable, walkable streets. It helps make the case for building houses with rear garages instead of front, often off a lane, and having true front doors. Once the garage is moved, the door can be moved closer to the sidewalk. The lack of driveway curb cuts allow for street trees, uninterrupted sidewalks, on-street parking, and slower speeds for residential traffic, illustrating the ripple effects that suburban-style garages can have on the public realm, walkability, and yes, trick-or-treating. via Atlantic Cities, published October 31, 2012.

Star of the Sea Upper Years Progress ~ Throughout Term 3, the children have continued on their journey of Discovery Learning…a practice all classes partake in throughout the school. They have built on the ‘Design Thinking’ skills that they were immersed in during Term 2, and we have seen amazing application of skills throughout all learning activities throughout the term. via BBCCDESIGN, published October 2, 2012.

Design Thinking to Help Reverse a Difficult Deformity Find out how a team of d.school students have channeled Design Thinking to rethink and redesign braces for Clubfoot children in the developing world. via SmartPlanet 2012

Thoughts on the Design Thinking For Educators Workshop ~Insights and observations from a two day workshop on design thinking for educators

How Apple’s “Little” Approach Leads to Big Wins ~ The right process brings the right people to the table—the “product guys” as Bob Lutz called them, who really get the customers and the trade-offs they are forced to make today. A good process also keeps the focus on the right criteria, insisting that the key to success is not the state of the technology, or diversity of products being pumped out, or number of features, but instead how delightful your products are, how simple they are, how easy they are to use. via Harvard Business Review, published October 23, 2012.

Classroom Redesign Videos ~ Watch as both 2nd and 5th grade Riverdale Country School students describe their classroom redesign projects and the reasons behind each of their ideas.

First Grade Inventor Projects~  In this video, a first grade class of Riverdale Country School students presents the results of weeks of work, studying and thinking about inventors and thinkers.  They looked at how and why inventions were made, what inspired the inventors and discovered a common thread – their inventions solved problems.  The students were challenged to think about a problem they wanted to solve and what they might invent to help them solve that problem.  We used basic recyclable materials, craft supplies and a lot of imagination to create a multitude of inventions.

Classroom Redesign ~ After gathering insights on how the students feel about their classroom, a Riverdale Country School class of elementary students comes together to explore a design challenge based around rethinking their classroom” “How Might We create a more comfortable classroom that promotes learning?” “How Might We create a classroom with more personal space?

Classroom Prototypes ~ After a full day of prototyping, our students are near completion. They spent a majority of Friday working in small groups to prototype one of three possibilities.  Groups focused on improving their classroom desks or chairs while other groups worked on creating a reading loft for the classroom.  Their creativity was amazing!  From built-in water bottles and pencil sharpeners to headphones for listening to laptops and teacher directions, the students truly embodied functionality and imagination with attention to saving space. Stay tuned for more pictures of completed prototypes.  Up next, feedback from current third grade students!

Prototypes Continued ~The students are almost finished with their designs and ready for end user feedback.


d.school Design Thinking Virtual Crash Course ~ a great (and completely free) way to experience design thinking first hand. All you need is 90 minutes, a partner, some sharpies and whatever arts and crafts you can scavenge from around your house. Worksheets, tools and video provided. Course description: If you choose to participate, in 90 minutes you will be taken through a full design cycle by participating in The Gift-Giving Project. This is a fast-paced project where participants pair up to interview each other, identify real needs, and develop a solution to “redesign the gift-giving experience” for their partner. NO PREVIOUS DESIGN EXPERIENCE REQUIRED. We’ll provide all the information you need to be successful, whether you are just pairing up with one other person or you are gathering a large group  (great for organizations, schools, or companies).

Design Thinking For Educators  ~ Partnership between Riverdale Country School and Ideo lead to the Design Thinking For Educators toolkit and website, a fantastic resource which contains the process and methods of design, adapted specifically for the context of K-12 education. It offers new ways to be intentional and collaborative when designing, and empowers educators to create impactful solutions.

Design Thinking For Educators Workshop ~ Free Virtual course (7/30 – 8/31) offered in parternership between Edutopia, IDEO & Riverdale Country School

Design Thinking For Educators October  19/20 Conference ~ Join IDEO, Riverdale Country School & Parsons School in NY for a two day Design Thinking For Educators workshop where you will learn and use the design thinking process, connect with other educators and have the opportunity to create a project plan where you can apply this process to your own work.

Startups: This is How Design Works ~ A guide for non-designers by Wells Riley. Companies like Apple are making design impossible for startups to ignore. Startups like PathAirbnbSquare, and Massive Health have design at the core of their business, and they’re doing phenomenal work. But what is ‘design’ actually? Is it a logo? A WordPress theme? An innovative UI? It’s so much more than that. It’s a state of mind. It’s an approach to a problem. It’s how you’re going to kick your competitor’s ass. This handy guide will help you understand design and provide resources to help you find awesome design talent.


READING LIST: Includes all the books from the d.school’s recommended reading list on design thinking plus a few books we thought would round out our investigation of design thinking) 

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink

IDEO Method Cards

Thoughtless Acts? Observations on Intuitive Design by Jane Fulton Suri & IDEO

The Art of Innovation by Thomas Kelley

Change by Design, Tim Brown

Design Thinking, by Nigel Cross

The Designful Company, by Marty Neumeier

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, by Roger Martin

Weird Ideas That Work, by Robert Sutton

Wired to Care, by Dev Patnaik

Exposing the Magic of Design, by Jon Kolko

Rapid Viz, by Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston

Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration, by Scott Witthoft and Scott Doorley

The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning, by Cannon Design, VS Furniture, and Bruce Mau Design



QUOTES here is a curated list of quotes from the book which detail and communicate main ideas, terms, principles and assumptions of the design thinking practice and discipline. To make this static list of quotes more interactive and user friendly, I have highlighted, in bold red letters, key concepts and terms so that you may easily browse through the list and zero in on the quotes of interest and relevance to you. Enjoy! 

Source: Brown, Tim. Change by Design: How Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Business, 2009. Print.

A purely technocentric view of innovation is less sustainable now than ever, and a management philosophy based only on selecting from existing strategies is likely to be overwhelmed by new developments at home or abroad. What we need are new choices--new products that balance the needs of individuals and of society as a whole; new ideas that tackle the global challenges of health, poverty, and education; new strategies that result in differences that matter and a sense of purpose that engages everyone affected by them. 3

What we need is an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective, and broadly accessible, that can be integrated into all aspects of business and society, and that individuals and teams can use to generate breakthrough ideas that are implemented and that therefore have an impact. Design thinking, the subject of this book, offers such an approach. 3

By integrating what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable, designers have been able to create the products we enjoy today. Design thinking takes the next step, which is to put these tools into the hands of people who may have never thought of themselves as designers and apply them to a vastly greater range of problems. 4

Design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols. Nobody wants to run a business based on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as dangerous. The integrated approach at the core of the design process suggests a “third way.” 4

I was trained as an industrial designer, but it took me a long time to realize the difference between being a designer and thinking like a designer. 4

Only gradually did I come to see the power of design not as a link in a chain but as the hub of a wheel. 5

I now use it [the term design thinking] as a way of describing a set of principles that can be applied by diverse people to a wide range of problems. 7

Today, rather than enlist designers to make an already developed idea more attractive, the most progressive companies are challenging them to create ideas at the outset of the development process. The former role is tactical; it builds on what exists and usually moves it one step further. The latter is strategic; it pulls “design” out of the studio and unleashes its disruptive, game-changing potential. It’s no accident that designers can now be found in the boardrooms of some of the world’s most progressive companies. As a thought process, design has begun to move upstream. 7

[…] the principles of design thinking turn out to be applicable to a wide range of organizations, not just to companies in search of new product offerings. 7

From pediatric obesity to crime prevention to climate change, design thinking is now being applied to a range of challenges that bear little resemblance to the covetable objects that fill the pages of today’s coffee-table publications. 7

In contrast to the champions of scientific management at the beginning of the last century, design thinkers know that there is no “one best way” to move through the process. There are useful starting points and helpful landmarks along the way, but the continuum of innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. We can think of them as inspiration, the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation, the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation, that path that leads from the project room to the market. Projects may loop back through these steps more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions. 16

The reason for the iterative, nonlinear nature of the journey is not that design thinkers are disorganized or undisciplined but that design thinking is fundamentally an exploratory process; done right, it will invariably make unexpected discoveries along the way, and it would be foolish not to find out where they lead. Often these discoveries can be integrated into the ongoing process without disruption. At other times the discovery will motivate the team to revisit some of its most basic assumptions. While testing a prototype, for instance, consumers may provide us with insights that point to a more interesting, more promising, and potentially more profitable market opening up in front of us. Insights of this sort should inspire us to refine or rethink our assumptions rather than press onward in adherence to an original plan. 16

Fail early to succeed sooner. 17

Insofar as it is open-ended, open-minded, and iterative, a process fed by design thinking will feel chaotic to those experiencing it for the first time. But over the life of a project, it invariable comes to make sense and achieves results that differ markedly from the linear, milestone-based processes that define traditional business practices. In any case, predictability leads to boredom and boredom leads to the loss of talented people, It also leads to results that rivals find easy to copy. It is better to take an experimental approach: share processes, encourage the collective ownership of ideas, and enable teams to learn from one another. 17

But the mark of a designer, as the legendary Charles Eames said often, is a willing embrace of constraints. 17

The willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of constraints is the foundation of design thinking. The first stage of the design thinking process is often about discovering which constraints are important and establishing a framework for evaluating them. Constraints can be visualized in terms of three overlapping criteria for successful ideas: feasibility (what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future); viability (what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model); and desirability (what makes sense to people and for people). 18

A competent designer will resolve each of these three constraints, but a design thinker will bring them into a harmonious balance. 18

This pursuit of peaceful coexistence does not imply that all constraints are created equal; a given project may be driven disproportionally by technology, budget, or a volatile mix of human factors. Different types of organizations may push one or another of them to the fore. Nor is it a simple linear process. Design teams will cycle back through all three considerations throughout the life of a project, but the emphasis on fundamental human needs--as distinct  from fleeting or artificially manipulated desires–is what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo. 19

Because business systems are designed for efficiency, new ideas will tend to be incremental, predictable, and all too easy for the competition to emulate. This explains the oppressive uniformity of so many products on the market today; have you walked through the housewares section of any department store lately, shopped for a printer, or almost gotten into the wrong car in a parking lot? 20

A second approach is the one commonly taken by engineering-driven companies looking for a technological breakthrough. In this scenario teams of researchers will discover a new way of doing something and only afterward, will they think about how the technology might fit into an existing business system and create value. 20

Today, corporations instead attempt to narrow their innovation efforts to ideas that have more near-term business potential. They may be making a big mistake. By focusing their attention on near-term viability, they may be trading innovation for increment. 20

Even when the goals are laudable, however–moving travelers safely through a security checkpoint or delivering clean water to rural communities in impoverished countries–the primary focus on one element of the triad of constraints, rather than the appropriate balance among all three, may undermine the sustainability of the overall program. 21

Designers, then, have learned to excel at resolving one or another or even all three of these constraints. Design thinkers, by contrast, are learning to navigate between and among them in creative ways. They do so because they have shifted their thinking from problem to project. 21

The project is a vehicle that carries an idea from concept to reality. Unlike many other processes we are used to–from playing the piano to paying our bills–a design project is not open-ended and ongoing. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, and it is precisely these restrictions that anchor it to the real world. That design thinking is expressed within the context of a project forces us to articulate a clear goal at the outset. It creates natural deadlines that impose discipline and give us an opportunity to review progress, make midcourse corrections, and redirect future activity. The clarity, direction, and limits of a well-defined project are vital to sustaining a high level of creative energy. 21

The classic starting point of any project is the brief. Almost like a scientific hypothesis, the brief is a set of mental constraints that gives the project team a framework from which to being, benchmarks by which they can measure progress and a set of objectives to be realized: price point, available technology, market segment and so on. The analogy goes even further. Just as a hypothesis is not the same as an algorithm, the project brief is not a set of instructions or an attempt to answer a question before is has been posed. Rather, a well-constructed brief will allow for serendipity, unpredictability, and the capricious whims of fate, for that is the creative realm from which breakthrough ideas emerge. If you already know what you are after, there is usually not much point in looking. 23

A design brief that is too abstract risks leaving the project team wandering about in a fog. One that starts from too narrow a set of constraints, however, almost guarantees that the outcome will be incremental and, most likely, mediocre. 24

The art of the brief can raise the bar and set great organizations apart from moderately successful ones. 24

[…] design thinking needs to be practiced on both sides of the table: by the design team, obviously, but by the client as well. I cannot count the number of clients who have marched in and said, “Give me the next iPod,” but it’s probably pretty close to the number of designers I’ve heard respond (under their breath), “Give me the next Steve Jobs.” The difference between a design brief with just the right level of constraints and one that is overly vague or overly restrictive can be the difference between a team on fire with breakthrough ideas and one that delivers a tired reworking of existing ones. 25

As design begins to tackle a wider range of problems–and to move upstream in the innovation process–the lone designer, sitting alone in a studio and meditating upon the relation between form and function, has yielded to the interdisciplinary team. 26

There is a popular saying around IDEO that “all of us are smarter than any of us,” and this is the key to unlocking the creative power of any organization. We ask people not simply to offer expert advice on materials, behaviors, or software but to be active in each of the spaces of innovation: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Staffing a project with people from diverse backgrounds and a multiplicity of disciplines takes some patience, however. It requires us to identify individuals who are confident enough of their expertise that they are willing to go beyond it. 27

To operate within an interdisciplinary environment, an individual needs to have strength in two dimensions–the “T-shaped” person made famous by McKinsey & Company. On the vertical axis, every member of the team needs to possess a depth of skill that allows him or her to make tangible contributions to the outcome. This competence–whether in the computer lab, in the machine shop, or out in the field–is difficult to acquire but easy to spot. […] But that is not enough. Many designers who are skilled technicians, craftsmen or researchers have struggled to survive in  the messy environment required to solve today’s complex problems. They may play a valuable role, but they are destined to live in the downstream world of design execution. Design thinkers, by contrast, cross the “T.” They may be architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs, or engineers with marketing experience. 27

A creative organization is constantly on the lookout for people with the capacity and–just as important–the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. In the end, this ability is what distinguishes the merely multidisciplinary team from the truly interdisciplinary one. In a multidisciplinary team each individual becomes an advocate for his or her own technical specialty and the project becomes a protracted negotiation among them, likely resulting in a grey compromise. In an interdisciplinary team there is collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them. 27

Design thinking is the opposite of group thinking, but paradoxically, it takes place in groups. The usual effect of “groupthink,” as William H. Whyte explained to the readers of Fortune back in 1952, is to suppress people’s creativity. Design thinking, by contrast, seeks to liberate it. 28

Though it is not uncommon to see large creative teams at work, it is nearly always in the implementation phase of the project; the inspiration phase, by contrast, requires a small, focused group whose job is to establish the overall framework. 28

Faced with more complex problems, we may be tempted to increase the size of the core team early on, but more often than not this leads to a dramatic reduction in speed and efficiency as communications within the team begin to take up more time than the creative process itself. Are there alternatives? Is it possible to preserve the effectiveness of small teams while tackling more complex, system-level problems? It is increasingly clear that new technology–properly designed and wisely deployed–can help leverage the power of small teams. 29

The promise of electronic collaboration should not be to create dispersed but ever-bigger teams; this tendency merely compounds the political and bureaucratic problems we are trying to solve. Rather, our goal should be to create interdependent networks of small teams as has been done by the online innovation exchange Innocentive. Any company that has an R&D problem can post a challenge on Innocentive and it will be exposed to tens of thousands of scientists, engineers, and designers who can choose to submit solutions. The Internet, in other words, characterized by dispersed, decentralized, mutually reinforcing networks, is not so much the means as the model of the new forms of organization taking shape. Because it is open-sourced and open-ended, it allows the energy of many small teams to be brought to bear on the same problem. 29

Much effort has gone into the problem of remote collaboration. Videoconferencing, although invented in the 1960s, became widespread once digital telephony networks became technically feasible in the 1980s. Only recently has it begun to show signs of taking hold as an effective medium of remote collaboration. E-mail has done little to support collective teamwork. The Internet helps move information around but has done little to bring people together. Creative teams need to be able to share their thoughts not only verbally but visually and physically as well. 30

So far, efforts to innovate around the topic of remote groups have suffered from lack of understanding about what motivates creative teams and supports group collaboration. Too much has been focused on mechanical tasks such as storing and sharing data or running a structured meeting and not enough on the far messier tasks of generating ideas and building a consensus around them. 30

The emergence of social networking sites has shown that people are driven to connect, share, and “publish,” even if there is no immediate reward to be gained. 31

“Always on” video links (also called “wormholes“) encourage spontaneous interactions among team members at different sites and increase a group’s access to people with expertise located in another city, state, or continent. This capability is important because good ideas rarely come on schedule and may wither and die in the interludes between weekly meetings. Instant messaging, blogs, and wikis all allow teams to publish and share insights and ideas in new ways–with the advantage that an expensive IT support team is not necessary as long as someone on the team has a family member in junior high school. After all, none of these tools existed a decade ago (the Internet itself, as the technovisionary Kevin Kelly has remarked, is fewer than five thousand days olds!). All are leading to new experiments in collaboration and hence to new insights into the interactions of teams. Anyone who is serious about design thinking across an organization will encourage them. 31

To be creative, a place does not have to be crazy, kooky, and located in northern California. What is a prerequisite is an environment–social but also spatial–in which people know they can experiment, take risks, and explore the full range of their faculties. 32

The physical and psychological spaces of an organization work in tandem to define the effectiveness of the people within it. 32

A culture that believes that it is better to ask forgiveness afterward rather than permission before, that rewards people for success but gives them permission to fail, has removed one of the main obstacles to the formation of new ideas. 32

Although it can at times seem forbiddingly abstract, design thinking is embodied thinking—embodied in teams and projects, to be sure, but embodied in the physical spaces of innovation as well. 35

In a culture of meetings and milestones, it can be difficult to support the exploratory and iterative processes that are at the heart of the creative process. Happily, there are tangible things we can do to ensure that facilities do what they are supposed to do: facilitate! IDEO allocates special “project rooms” that are reserved to a team for the duration of its work. […] The project spaces are large enough that the accumulated research materials, photos, storyboards, concepts, and prototypes can be out and available all of the time. The simultaneous visibility of these project materials help us identify patterns and encourages creative synthesis to occur much more readily than when these resources are hidden away in file folders, notebooks, or PowerPoint decks. A well-curated project spaced, augmented by a project Web site or wiki to help keep team members in touch when they are out in the field, can significantly improve the productivity of a team by supporting better collaboration among its members and better communication with outside partners and clients. 35

Because of the inherently tentative and experimental nature of design thinking, flexibility is a key element of its success. As Dilbert has shown, regulation-size spaces tend to produce regulation-size ideas. 36

There is an important lesson here about the challenges of shifting from a culture of hierarchy and efficiency to one of risk taking and exploration. Those who navigate this transition successfully are likely to become more deeply engaged, more highly motivated, and more wildly productive than they have ever been before. They will show up early and stay late because of the enormous satisfaction they get from giving form to new ideas and putting them out into the world. Once they have experienced this feeling, few people will be willing to give it up. 36

Over the course of their century-long history of creative problem solving, designers have acquired a set of tools to help them move through what I have called the “three spaces of innovation”: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. My argument is that these skills now need to be dispersed throughout organizations. In particular, design thinking needs to move “upstream,” closer to the executive suites where strategic decisions are made. Design is now too important to be left to designers. 37

It may be perplexing for those with hard-won design degrees to imagine a role for themselves beyond the studio, just as managers may find it strange to be asked to think like designers. But this should be seen as the inevitable result of a field that has come of age. The problems that challenged designers in the 20th century–crafting a new object, creating a new logo, putting a scary bit of technology into a pleasing or at least innocuous box–are simply not the problems that will define the 21st. If we are to deal with what Bruce Mau has called the “massive change” that seems to be characteristic of our time, we all need to think like designers. 37

Just as I am challenging companies to incorporate design into their organizational DNA, however, I want to challenge designers to continue the transformation of design practice itself. There will always be a place in our dizzying world for the artist, the craftsman, and the lone inventor, but the seismic shifts taking place in every industry demand a new design practice: collaborative but in a way that amplifies, rather than subdues, the creative powers of individuals; focused but at the same time flexible and responsive to unexpected opportunities; focused not just on optimizing the social, the technical, and the business components of a product but on bringing them into a harmonious balance. The next generation of designers will need to be as comfortable in the boardroom as they are in the studio or the shop, and they will need to begin looking at every problem–from adult illiteracy to global warming–as a design problem. 38

For design thinkers, however, behaviors are never right or wrong, but they are always meaningful. 39

The job of the designer, to borrow a marvelous phrase from Peter Drucker, is “converting need into demand.” On the face of it, this sounds simple: just figure out what people want and then give it to them. But if it’s so easy, why don’t we see more success stories like the iPod? The Prius? MTV and eBay? The answer, I’d suggest, is that we need to return human beings to the center of the story. We need to learn to put people first. 39

Much has been written about “human-centered design” and its importance to innovation. Since there are so few truly compelling stories, however, it’s time to ask why it is so difficult to spot a need and design a response. The basic problem is that people are so ingenious at adapting to inconvenient situations that they are often not even aware that they are doing so: they sit on their seat belts, write their PINs on their hands, hang their jackets on doorknobs, and chain their bicycles to park benches. Henry Ford understood this when he remarked, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said ‘a faster horse’.” This is why traditional techniques such as focus groups and surveys, which in most cases simply ask people what they want, rarely yield important insights. The tools of conventional market research can be useful in pointing toward incremental improvements, but they will never lead to those rule-breaking, game-changing, paradigm-shifting breakthroughs that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why nobody ever though of them before. 40

Our real goal, then, is not so much fulfilling manifest needs by creating a speedier printer or a more ergonomic keyboard, that’s the job of designers. It is helping people to articulate latent needs they may not even know they have, and this is the challenge of the design thinker. 40

Insight is one of the key sources of design thinking, and it does not usually come from reams of quantitative data that measure exactly what we already have and tell us what we already know. A better starting point is to go out into the world and observe the actual experiences of commuters, skateboarders, and registered nurses as they improvise their way through their daily lives. The psychologist Jane Fulton Suri, one of the pioneers of human factors research, refers to the myriad thoughtless acts” people perform throughout the day: the shopkeeper who uses a hammer as a doorstop; the office worker who sticks identifying labels onto the jungle of computer cables under his desk. Rarely will the everyday people who are the consumers of our products, the customers for our services, the occupants of our buildings, or the user of our digital interfaces be able to tell us what to do. Their actual behaviors, however, can provide us with invaluable clues about their range of unmet needs. 41

Design is a fundamentally creative endeavor, but i do not mean this in an arcane or romantic sense. In an analytical paradigm, we simply solve for the missing number (though anyone who struggled, as I did, though high school algebra knows how daunting this can be!). In a design paradigm, however, the solution is not locked away somewhere waiting to be discovered but lies in the creative work of the team. The creative process generates ideas and concepts that have not existed before. 41

The evolution from design to design thinking is the story of the evolution from the creation of products to the analysis of the relationship between people and products, and from there to the relationship between people and people. Indeed, a striking development of recent years has been the migration of designers toward social and behavioral problems, such as adhering to a drug regimen or shifting from junk food to healthy snacking. 42

The easiest thing about the search for insight–in contrast to the search for hard data–is that it’s everywhere and it’s free. 43

Although grocery store shoppers, office workers, and schoolchildren are not the ones who will write us a check at the end of a project, they are our ultimate clients. The only way we can get to know them is to seek them out where they live, work and play. Accordingly, almost every project we undertake involves an intensive period of observation. We watch what people do (and do not do) and listen to what they say (and do not say). This takes some practice. 43

There is nothing simple about determining whom to observe, what research techniques to employ, how to draw useful inferences from the information gathered, or when to begin the process of synthesis that begins to point us toward a solution. As any anthropologist will attest, observation relies on quality not quantity. The decisions one makes can dramatically affect the results one gets. It makes sense for a company to familiarize itself with the buying habits of people who inhabit the center of its current market, for they are the ones who will verify that an idea is valid on a large scale–a fall outfit for Barbie, for instance, or next year’s feature on last year’s car. By concentrating solely on the bulge at the center of the bell curve, however, we are more likely to confirm what we already know than learn something new and surprising. For insights at that level we need to head for the edges, the places where we expect to find “extreme” users who live differently, think differently, and consume differently–a collector who owns 1,400 Barbies, for instance, or a professional car thief. 44

Although the behavioral science researchers at places such as Intel, Nokia, and IDEO are trained professionals, there are times when it makes sense to “deputizeour clients and enlist them in the hard work of conducting observations themselves. 48

On other occasions, it is our clients themselves who take the lead and provide cues as to where we might look for insight. 48

A smoking racecar pulled into a pit stop where a precision team of trained professionals, with state-of-the-art tools at the ready assessed the situation and performed all the necessary repairs within seconds. Change a few words around, and you have an accurate description of a hospital trauma center. Of course we also looked at real emergency room environments and observed physicians and nurses at work, but observing “analogous” situations–a pit stop at the Indy 500, a neighborhood fire station, an elementary school playground during recess–will often jolt us out of the frame of reference that makes it so difficult to see the larger picture. 48

It’s possible to spend days, weeks, or months conducting research of this sort, but at the end of it all we will have little more than stacks of field notes, videotapes, and photographs unless we can connect with the people we are observing at a fundamental level. We call this “empathy” and it is perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking. We are not trying to generate new knowledge, test a theory, or validate a scientific hypothesis–that’s the work of our university colleagues and an indispensable part of our shared intellectual landscape. The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives. 49

Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations. If we are to “borrow” the lives of other people to inspire new ideas, we need to begin by recognizing that their seemingly inexplicable behaviors represent different strategies for coping with the confusing, complex, and contradictory world in which they live. 49

A designer, no less than an engineer or marketing executive, who simply generalizes from his own standards and expectations will limit the field of opportunity. 49

We build these bridges of insight through empathy, the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, understand the world through their experiences, and feel the world through their emotions. 50

Drawing upon his highly specialized expertise in the ethnographic study of technology and complex systems, Kristian Simsarian, one of the core team members, set out to capture the patient experience. What better way to do so than to check into the hospital and go through the emergency room experience, from admission to examination, as if he were a patient? Feigning a foot injury, Kristian placed himself into the shoes–and in fact, onto the gurney–of the average emergency room patient. He saw firsthand how disorienting the check-in process could be. He experienced the frustration of being asked to wait, without ever being told what he was waiting for or why. He endured the anxiety of being wheeled by an unidentified staffer down an anonymous corridor through a pair of intimidating double doors and into the glare and the din of the emergency room. We have all had those kinds of first-person, first-time experiences–buying our first car, stepping out of the airport in a city we have never visited, evaluating assisted living facilities for an aging parent. In these situations we look at everything with a much higher level of acuity because nothing is familiar and we have not fallen into the routines that make daily life manageable. With a video camera tucked discreetly beneath his hospital gown, Kristian captured a patient’s experience in a way that no surgeon, nurse or ambulance driver could possibly have done. 51

The crushing tedium of the video thrust the design team into Kristian’s–and, by extension, the patient’s–experience of the opacity of the hospital process. It triggered in each of them the mix of boredom and anxiety that comes with being in a situation in which one feels lost, uninformed, and not in control. The team realized that two competing narratives were in play: The hospital saw the “patient journey” in terms of insurance verification, medical prioritization, and bed allocation. The patient experienced it as a stressful situation made worse. From this step of observations the team concluded that the hospital needed to balance its legitimate concerns with medical and administrative tasks with an emphatic concern for the human side of the equation. This insight became the basis of a far-reaching program of “codesign” in which IDEO’s designers worked with DePaul’s hospital staff to explore hundreds of opportunities to improve the patient experience. 51-52

Insights lead to new insights as seemingly insignificant physical details accumulate. 52

By experiencing the patient journey firsthand, the team gained important clues that might help it to translate insight into opportunity. How does a patient make sense out of the situation? How do new arrivals navigate the physical and social space? What are they likely to find confusing? These questions are essential to identifying what we call latent needs, needs that may be acute but that people may not be able to articulate. By achieving a state of empathy with anxious patients checking into an emergency room, we can better imagine how the experience might be improved. Sometimes we use these insights to emphasize the new. At other times it makes sense to do just the opposite, to reference the ordinary and the familiar. 53

In approaching the uncharted territory of online banking, we began by trying to get a better understanding of how people thought about their money. This exercise proved to be challenging in the extreme since we can’t watch the cognitive process of someone thinking about money in the way we can watch the behavioral process of someone paying a bill or withdrawing cash from an ATM. The team settled on the technique of asking selected participants to “draw their money”–not the credit cards in their wallets or the checkbook in their purses but the way in which money played a part in their lives. […] Beginning from cognitive experiments like these, the team of researchers, strategists, and designers developed a subtle market analysis that helped Juniper refine its target market and build an effective service in the emerging world of online banking. 53-54

A third layer–beyond the functional and the cognitive–comes into play when we begin working with ideas that matter to people at an emotional level. Emotional understanding becomes essential here. What do people in your target population feel? What touches them? What motivates them? Political parties and advertising agencies have been exploiting people’s emotional vulnerabilities for ages, but “emotional understanding” can help companies turn their customers not into adversaries but into advocates. 54

But even empathy for the individual, as it turns out, is not sufficient. To the extent that designers have one at all, their prevailing concepts of “markets” remains the aggregate of many individuals. It rarely extends to how groups interact with one another. Design thinkers have upped the ante, beginning with the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 56

With the growth of the Internet, it has become clear that we must extend our understanding to the social interactions of people within groups and to the interactions among groups themselves. Almost any Web-based service–from social networking sites to mobile phone offerings to the vast world of online gaming–requires an understanding of the dynamic interactions within and between larger groups. What are people trying to achieve as individuals? What group effects, such as “smart mobs” or “virtual economies,” are taking shape? And how does membership in an online community affect the behavior of individuals once they return to the prosaic world of atoms, proteins, and bricks? It is hard to imagine creating anything today without trying to gain an understanding of group effects. Even a chair. 56

Simply asking people to recount how they spend their time or with whom they regularly communicate can result in skewed information. Even with the best of intentions, people’s memories are faulty and their answers are likely to reflect what they think should be the unvarnished facts. Tools such as video ethnography (in which cameras record group behavior over time) and computer interaction analysis help gather more accurate data about the dynamic interactions among people and groups. 57

A second set of considerations is forcing us to rethink our notions of how to connect to consumers, and that is the pervasive fact of cultural differences–a theme that has moved from bad jokes about “political correctness” to the center of our concerns as we confront the realities of a media-saturated, globally interconnected society. […] This reality puts yet another dent in the idealized image of the designer as the source of professional expertise that can be taught in school, honed in professional practice, and exported universally to anyone in need of a better desk lamp or digital camera. Spending time to understand a culture can open up new innovation opportunities. This may help us to discover universal solutions that have relevance beyond our own culture, but they will always have their origins in empathy. 57

The movement from insight to observation to empathy leads us, finally, to the most intriguing question of them all: if cultures are so diverse and if the twentieth-century image of “the unruly mob” has given way to the twenty-first century discovery of the “wisdom of crowds,” how can we tap that collective intelligence to unleash the full power of design thinking? The designer must not be imagined as an intrepid anthropologist, venturing into an alien culture to observe the natives with the utmost objectivity. Instead we need to invent a new and radical form of collaboration that blurs the boundaries between creators and consumers. It’s not about “us versus them” or even “us on behalf of them.” For the design thinker, it has to be “us with them.” 58

In the past, the consumer was viewed as the object of analysis or, worse, as the hapless target of predatory marketing strategies. Now we must migrate toward ever-deeper collaboration not just among members of a design team but between the team and the audience it is trying to reach. As Howard Rheingold has shown in his studies of “smart mobs” and Jeff Howe has demonstrated through “crowdsourcing” (more formally known as “distributed participatory design”), new technologies are suggesting promising ways of forging this link. 58

We are in the midst of a significant change in how we think about the role of consumers in the process of design and development. In the early years, companies would dream up new products and enlist armies of marketing experts and advertising professionals to see them to people–often by exploiting their fears and vanities. Slowly this began to yield to a more nuance approach that involved reaching out to people, observing their lives and experiences, and using those insights to inspire new ideas. Today, we are beginning to move beyond this “ethnographic” model to approaches inspired and underpinned by new concepts and technologies.  My colleague Jane Fulton Suri has even begun to explore the next stage in the evolution of design as it migrates from designers creating for people to designers creating with people to people creating by themselves through the application of user-generated content and open-source innovation. 58

For the moment, the greatest opportunity lies in the middle space between the twentieth-century idea that companies created new products and customers passively consumed them and the futuristic vision in which consumers will design everything they need for themselves. What lies in the middle ground is an enhanced level of collaboration between creators and consumers, a blurring of the boundaries at the level of both companies and individuals. Individuals, rather than allowing themselves to be stereotyped as “consumers,” “customers,” or “users,” can now think of themselves as active participants in the process of creation; organizations, by the same token, must become more comfortable with the erosion of the boundary between the proprietary and the public, between themselves and the people whose happiness, comfort, and welfare allow them to succeed. 59

We see evidence of innovative strategies meant to enhance the collaboration between creators and consumers everywhere. In an initiative funded by the European Union to look at ways in which digital technology might strengthen the fabric of society, Tonny Dunne and Bill Gaver of the Royal College of Arts in London developed a set of “cultural probes“–journal exercises, inexpensive video cameras–that enabled elderly villagers to document the patterns of their everyday lives. In industries more geared to the youth culture–video games, sports apparel–it is now quite common for developers to work with tech-savvy youths at every stage of the development process from concept development to testing. Sweat Equity Enterprise in New York (the term refers to contributing time and effort to a project as opposed to “financial equity,” or money) works with companies as diverse as Nike, Nissan, and Radio Shack to codevelop new products with inner-city high school kids. The sponsoring companies capture cutting-edge insights “from the street” (a somewhat more reliable source of creativity than the executive suite) while at the same time making a lasting investment in education and opportunity for underserved urban youth. 60

One of the techniques we have developed at IDEO to keep the consumer-designer involved in the creation, evaluation, and development of ideas is the “unfocus group,” where we bring an array of consumers and experts together in a workshop format to explore new concepts around a particular topic. Whereas traditional focus groups assemble a random group of “average” people who are observed, literally or figuratively, from behind a one-way mirror, the unfocus group identifies unique individuals and invites them to participate in an active, collaborative design exercise. 61

Today we no longer feel that we must sit patiently and wait for some outrageous insight to strike us. Inspiration always involves an element of chance, but, as Louis Pasteur observed in a famous lecture of 1854, “Chance only favors the prepared mind.” Certain themes and variations–techniques of observation, principles of empathy, and efforts to move beyond the individual–can all be thought of as ways of preparing the mind of the design thinker to find insight: from the seemingly commonplace as well as the bizarre, from the rituals of everyday life but also the exceptional interruptions of those rituals, and from the average to the extreme. That insight cannot yet be codified, quantified, or even defined–not yet, at any rate–makes it the most difficult but also the most exciting part of the design process. There is no algorithm that can tell us where it will come from and when it will hit. 62

One way to help design thinking diffuse throughout an organization is for designers to make their clients part of the experience. We do this not just to give them the thrill of peering behind the wizard’s curtain but because we find that we invariably get much better results when the client is on board and actively participating. 63

Every design process cycles through foggy periods of seemingly unstructured experimentation and bursts of intense clarity, periods of grappling with the Big Idea and long stretches during which all attention focuses on the details. Each of these phases is different, and it’s important–if only for the morale of the team–to recognize that each feels differently and calls for different strategies. 64

When a fresh team ventures out into the field to collect information, it is full of optimism. The process of synthesis–the ordering of data and the search for patterns–can be frustrating as important decisions seem to ride on the most insubstantial of hunches. But then things begin to pick up. The ideation process becomes more tangible, and new concepts begin to take shape. The process peaks when the team begins to produce prototypes. Even if they don’t look so good, don’t work properly, or have too many features or too few, they are visible, tangible signs of progress. Eventually, once the right idea has been agreed upon, the project team settles down to a state of pragmatic optimism punctuated by moments of extreme panic. The scary bits never completely go away, but the experienced design thinker knows what to expect and is not undone by the occasional emotional slump. Design thinking is rarely a graceful leap from height to height; it tests our emotional constitutions and challenges our collaborative skills, but it can reward perseverance with spectacular results. 65-66

Woven into the very fabric of our culture is an emphasis on thinking based upon logic and deduction; the psychologist Richard Nisbett, who has studied approaches to problem solving in Western and Eastern cultures, has gone so far as to suggest that there is a “geography of thought.” Whether the problem lies in the domain of physics, economics, or history, Westerners are taught to take a series of inputs, analyze them, and then converge upon a single answer. At times we may find that the best–as opposed to the right–answer will have to do or that we may have to choose among equally compelling alternatives. Just think about the last time you and five friends had to agree on where to go out for dinner. Group thinking tends to converge toward a single outcome. 66

Convergent thinking is a practical way of deciding among existing alternatives. What convergent thinking is not so good at, however, is probing the future and creating new possibilities. Think of a funnel, where the flared opening represents a broad set of initial possibilities and the small spout represents the narrowly convergent solution. This is clearly the most efficient way to fill up a test tube or drive toward a set of fine-grained solutions. 67

If the convergent phase of problem solving is what drives us toward solutions, the objective of divergent thinking is to multiply options to create choices. These might be different insights into consumer behavior, alternative visions of new product offerings, or choices among alternative ways of creating interactive experiences. By testing competing ideas against one another, there is an increased likelihood that the outcome will be bolder, more creatively disruptive, and more compelling. Linus Pauling said it best: “To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas”–and he won two Nobel Prizes. 67

Divergent thinking is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation. 68

The process of the design thinker, rather, looks like a rhythmic exchange between the divergent and convergent phases, with each subsequent iteration less broad and more detailed than the previous ones. In the divergent phase, new options emerge. In the convergent phase it is just the reverse: now it’s time to eliminate options and make choices. It can be painful to let a once-promising idea fall away, and this is where the diplomatic skills of project leaders are often tested. William Faulkner, when asked what he found to be the most difficult part of writing, answered, “Killing off your little darlings.” 68

Without analytical forms of thinking we could not run large corporations or manage household budgets. Designers, too, whether they are looking at signage for a sports stadium or alternatives to carcinogenic PVCs, use analytical tools to break apart complex problems to understand them better. The creative process, however, relies on synthesis, the collective act of putting the pieces together to create whole ideas. Once the data has been gathered, it is necessary to sift through it all and identify meaningful patterns. Analysis and synthesis are equally important, and each plays an essential role in the process of creating options and making choices. 69

Designers carry out research in many ways: collecting ethnographic data in the field; conducting interviews; reviewing patents, manufacturing process, vendors, and subcontractors. They can be found jotting notes, taking pictures, shooting videos, recording conversations, and sitting on airplanes. They are, hopefully, looking at the competition. Fact collecting and data gathering lead to an accumulation of information that can be staggering. But then what? At some point the team must settle down and in an intense period of synthesis–sometimes over the course of a few hours, sometimes over a week or more–begin to organize, interpret, and weave these many strands of data into a coherent story. 69

Synthesis, the act of extracting meaningful patterns from masses of raw information, is a fundamentally creative act; the data are just that–data–and the facts never speak for themselves. Sometimes the data are highly technical–if the task is a sophisticated piece of medical equipment, for instance; in other cases they may be purely behavioral, for example, if the problem is to encourage people to switch to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. In every case we may think of the designer as a master storyteller whose skill is measured by his or her ability to craft a compelling, consistent, and believable narrative. 70

Once the “raw material” has been synthesized into a coherent, inspiring narrative, a higher-level synthesis kicks in. It is far from unusual for a project brief to contain seemingly conflicting goals–low cost and high quality, to use an obvious example, or an accelerated time frame together with an interest in an unproven technology. There may be a tendency, under such circumstances, to simplify the process and reduce it to a set of specifications or a list of features. To do so is almost invariably to compromise the integrity of the product on the altar of convenience. 70

These are the seeds of design thinking—a continuous movement between divergent and convergent processes, on the one hand, and between the analytical and synthetic, on the other. But that is by no means the end of the story. As any gardener will attest, the hardiest seeds, cast into rocky or barren soil, will wither. The ground needs to be prepared. Attention must be shifted upward, from teams and individuals to companies. We might think of this as moving from the organization of design to the design of organizations. 71

A creative team must be given the time, the space, and the budget to make mistakes. 71

Individuals, teams, and organizations that have mastered the mental matrix of design thinking share a basic attitude of experimentation. They are open to new possibilities, alert to new directions, and always willing to propose new solutions. 71

tolerance for risk taking has as much to do with the culture of an organization as with its business strategy. 72

In an organization that encourages experimentation, there will be projects destined to go nowhere and still others that the keepers of institutional memory prefer not to talk about (remember the Apple Newton?). But to view such initiatives as “wasteful,” “inefficient,” or “redundant” may be a symptom of a culture focused on efficiency over innovation and a company at risk of collapsing into a downward spiral of incrementalism. 72

It’s no accident that designers in recent years have been following the emerging science of biomimicry–the idea that nature, with its 4.5 billion-year learning curve, may have something to teach us about things such as nontoxic adhesives, minimal structures, efficient thermal insulation, or aerodynamic streamlining. 73

The bewildering variety at work in a healthy ecosystem is nothing but an exercise in sustained experimentation–try something new, and see what sticks. It may well be that we need to begin mimicking nature not just at the molecular level but at the systemic level of companies and organizations. An excess of experimental zeal would be risky–companies do not enjoy the luxurious time frame of biological systems and their leaders would be remiss if they chose not to exercise what might be called–with apologies to Darwin–“intelligent design.” What is called for a is a judicious blend of bottom-up experimentation and guidance from above. The rules of this approach are as simple to state as they are challenging to apply:

  1. The best ideas emerge when the whole organizational ecosystem–not just its designers and engineers, and certainly not just management–has room to experiment.
  2. Those most exposed to changing externalities (new technology, shifting consumer base, strategic threats or opportunities) are the ones best placed to respond and most motivated to do so.
  3. Ideas should not be favored based on who creates them. (Repeat aloud.)
  4. Ideas that create a buzz should be favored. Indeed, ideas should gain a vocal following, however small, before being given organizational support.
  5. The “gardening” skills of senior leadership should be used to tend, prune, and harvest ideas. MBAs call this “risk tolerance.” I call it the top-down bit.
  6. An overarching purpose should be articulated so that the organization has a sense of direction and innovators don’t feel the need for constant supervision.

These rules apply to almost every field of innovation. Together they ensure that the seeds of individual creativity take root. 74

[…] what Mackey [John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market] has done since the earliest days of the company–he started with a single grocery store in Austin, Texas, and a total workforce of nineteen–is to make sure that every employee understands, appreciates, and has the ability to contribute to the overall vision of the company. These ideas act as navigational beacons for the localized innovations taking place throughout the organization. 74

[…] don’t let the results of bottom-up experimentation dissipate into unstructured ideas and unresolved plans. Some companies provide suggestion boxes intended to harvest the bottom-up creativity of the organization. They tend to fail, leaving management to wonder why ungrateful employees pour coffee into them if they are hanging on the wall or flame them if they are online. At best they tend to yield small and incremental ideas. More often they go nowhere because there is no obvious mechanism for acting upon suggestions. What is needed is a serious commitment from the top of the corporate pyramid, and it will be repaid by better ideas from the base. Any promising experiment should have a chance to gain organizational support in the form of a project sustained by appropriate resources and driven by definable goals. 75

The obvious counterpart to an attitude of experimentation is a climate of optimism. Sometimes the state of the world makes this difficult to sustain, but the fact remains that curiosity does not thrive in organizations that have grown cynical. 76

Without optimism–the unshakable belief that things could be better than they are–the will to experiment will be continually frustrated until it withers. Positive encouragement does not require the pretense that all ideas are created equal. It remains the responsibility of leadership to make discerning judgments, which will inspire confidence if people feel that their ideas have been given a fair hearing. 76

To harvest the power of design thinking, individuals, teams, and whole organizations have to cultivate optimism. People have to believe that it is within their power (or at least the power of their team) to create new ideas, that will serve unmet needs, and that will have a positive impact. 76

Optimism requires confidence, and confidence is built on trust. And trust, as we know, flows in both directions. 77

Brainstorming, ironically, is a structured way of breaking out of structure. It takes practice. 78

As with cricket or football (or their American equivalents), there are rules for brainstorming. The rules lay out the playing field within which a team of players can perform at high levels. Without rules there is no framework for a group to collaborate within, and a brainstorming session is more likely to degenerate into either an orderly meeting or an unproductive free-for-all with a lot of talking and not much listening. Every organization has its own variations on the rules of brainstorming (just as every family seems to have its own version of Scrabble or Monopoly). At IDEO we have dedicated rooms for our brainstorming sessions, and the rules are literally written on the walls: Defer judgment. Encourage wild ideas. Stay focused on the topic. The most important of them, I would argue, is “Build on the ideas of others.” It’s right up there with “Thou shalt not kill” and “Honor thy Father and thy Mother,” as it ensures that every participants is invested in the last idea put forward and has the chance to move it along. 78

Brainstorming is not necessarily the ultimate technique for idea generation, and it cannot be built into the structure of every organization. But it does prove its worth when the goal is to open up a broad spectrum of ideas. Other approaches are important for making choices, but nothing beats a good brainstorming sessions for creating them. 79

[…] designers learn to draw so that they can express their ideas. Words and numbers are fine, but only drawing can simultaneously reveal both the functional characteristics of an idea and its emotional content. To draw an idea accurately, decisions have to be made that can be avoided by even the most precise language; aesthetic issues have to be addressed that cannot be resolved by most elegant mathematical calculation. Whether the task at hand is a hair dryer, a weekend retreat in the country, or an annual report, drawing forces decisions. 80

Visual thinking takes many forms. We should not suppose that it is restricted to objective illustration. In fact, it is not even necessary to possess drawing skills. In November 1972, relaxing in a late-night deli in Honolulu at the end of a long day of conference proceedings, a couple of biochemists took out a cocktail napkin and shared some crude drawings of bacteria having sex. A few years later Stanley Cohen was on a plane to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize and Herbert Boyer was pulling his red Ferrari into the parking lot of Genentech. 80

All children draw. Somewhere in the course of becoming logical, verbally oriented adults, they unlearn this elemental skill. 80

When I use drawing to express an idea, I get different results than if I try to express it with words, and I usually get to them more quickly. I have to have a whiteboard or sketchpad nearby whenever I am discussing ideas with colleagues. I get stuck unless I can work it out visually. 81

The Post-It note, in all its pastel glory, embodies the movement from the divergent phase that is the source of our inspiration to the convergent phase that is the road map to our solutions. 82

The techniques of the design thinker that I have been describing–brainstorming, visual thinking–contribute to the divergent process of creating choices. But accumulating options is merely an exercise if we do not move on to the convergent phase of making choices. Doing so is critical if a project is to move from a rousing exercise in creative idea generation toward a resolution. Just for that reason, however, it can be one of the most difficult tasks that a design team faces. Given the opportunity, every design team will diverge endlessly. There is always a more interesting idea just around the corner, and until the budget runs out they will happily turn one corner after another. It is here that one of the simplest tools available for convergence comes into play: the Post-It note. 82

Once everyone is gathered together for a project review, there needs to be a process for selecting the ideas that are strongest and hold the greatest promiseStoryboards help—panels that illustrate, almost like comic strips, the sequence of events a user might experience in checking into a hotel, opening a bank account, or using a newly purchased electronic device. Sometimes it helps to create alternate scenarios. But sooner or later some level of consensus is called for, and it rarely comes about by debate or executive fiat. What is needed is some kind of tool to extract the intuition of the group and this is where a generous supply of Post-It notes cannot be beat. 83

Invented by Bill Moggridge, design thinker extraordinaire and one of the pioneers of Silicon Valley design, the butterfly test is a thoroughly unscientific but amazingly effective process for extracting a few key insights from a mass of data. Let’s imagine that by the end of a deep research phase, numerous brainstorming sessions, and endless prototypes, an entire wall of the project room has been covered with promising ideas. Each participant is then given a small number of small Post-It “ballots” to attach to the ideas they think should move forward. Members of the team flutter about the room inspecting the tableau of ideas, and before long it is clear which ones have attracted the most “butterflies.” Of course, all kinds of issues come into play, including politics and personalities, but that is what reaching a consensus is all about. Give and take. Compromise and creative combination. All these and more play a part in reaching the end result. The process is not about democracy, it is about maximizing the capacities of teams to converge on the best solutions. It’s chaotic, but it works surprisingly well and can be adapted to the peculiarities of many organizations. 83

Though we all have deadlines all of the time, in the divergent and exploratory phase of design thinking, deadlines take on an extra level of importance. They refer to the process and not the people. The deadline is the fixed point on the horizon where everything stops and the final evaluation begins. These points may seem arbitrary and unwelcome, but an experienced project leader knows how to use them to turn options into decisions. It’s unwise to have a deadline every day, at least in the earlier phases of a project. Nor does it work to stretch it out for six months. It takes judgment to determine when a team will reach a point where management input, reflection, redirection, and selection are more likely to be valuable. 84

I have saved for last the single most powerful tool of design thinking. This is not CAD, rapid prototyping, or even offshore manufacturing but that empathic, intuitive, pattern-recognizing, parallel-processing, and neural-networking Internet that each of us carries between our ears. For the time being, at any rate, it is our ability to construct complex concepts that are both functionally relevant and emotionally resonant that sets humans apart from the ever more sophisticated machines we use to assist us. As long as there is no algorithm that will tell us how to bring divergent possibilities into a convergent reality or analytical detail into a synthetic whole, this talent will guarantee that accomplished design thinkers have a place in the world. 84

[…] design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking. 85

The skills that make for a great design thinker–the ability to spot patterns in the mess of complex inputs; to synthesize new ideas from fragmented parts; to empathize with people different from ourselves–can all be learned. 86

Like every other kid, I was thinking with my hands, using physical props as a springboard for my imagination. This shift from physical to abstract and back again is one of the most fundamental processes by which we explore the universe, unlock our imaginations, and open our minds to new possibilities. 87

Whatever the budget and whatever the facilities, prototyping will be the essence of the place. 88

Since openness to experimentation is the lifeblood of any creative organization, prototyping–the willingness to go ahead and try something by building it–is the best evidence of experimentation. We may think of a prototype as a finished model of a product about to be manufactured, but that definition should be carried much further back in the process. It needs to include studies that may appear rough and simple and encompass more than just physical objects. Furthermore, it’s not necessary to be an industrial designer to adopt the habit of prototyping: financial services executives, retail merchants, hospital administrators, city planners, and transportation engineers can and should participate in this essential component of design thinking. 88

David Kelley calls prototyping “thinking with your hands,” and he contrasts it with specification-led, planning-driven abstract thinking. Both have value and each has its place, but one is much more effective at creating new ideas and driving them forward. 89

Although it might seem as though frittering away valuable time on sketches and models and simulations will slow work down, prototyping generates results faster. This seems counterintuitive: surely it takes longer to build an idea than to think one? Perhaps, but only for those gifted few who are able to think the right idea the first time. Most problems worth worrying about are complex, and a series of early experiments is often the best way to decide among competing directions. The faster we make our ideas tangible, the sooner we will be able to evaluate them, refine them, and zero in on the best solution. 89

Just as it can accelerate the pace of a project, prototyping allows the exploration ideas in parallel. Early prototypes should be fast, rough and cheap. The greater the investment in an idea, the more committed one becomes to it. Overinvestment in a refined prototype has two undesirable consequences: First, a mediocre idea may go too far toward realization–or even, in the worst case, all the way. Second, the prototyping process itself creates the opportunity to discover new and better ideas at minimal cost. Product designers can use cheap and easy-to-manipulate materials: cardboard, surfboard foam, wood, and even objects and materials they find lying around–anything they can glue or tape or staple together to create a physical approximation of ideas. IDEO’s first and greatest prototype was created when the company consisted of eight scruffy designers crowded together in a studio above Roxy’s dress shop on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Douglas Dayton and Jim Yurchenco affixed the roller ball from a tube of Ban Roll–on deodorant to the base of a plastic butter dish. Before long Apple Computer was shipping its first mouse. 90

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as is necessary to generate useful feedback and drive an idea forward. The greater the complexity and expense, the more “finished” it is likely to seem and the less likely its creators will be to profit from constructive feedback–or even to listen to it.  91

The goal of prototyping is not to create a working model. It is to give form to an idea to learn about its strengths and weaknesses and to identify new directions for the next generation of more detailed, more refined prototypes. 91

A prototype’s scope should be limited. The purpose of early prototypes might be to understand whether an idea has functional value. Eventually designers need to take the prototype out into the world to get feedback from the intended users of the final product. At this point the surface qualities of the prototype may require a bit more attention so that potential consumers are not distracted by the rough edges or unresolved details. Most people, for example, will find it difficult to visualize how a washing machine made of cardboard will work. 91

Some pretty amazing technology is available today for designers to create prototypes quickly and at an extremely high level of fidelity, including ultra precise laser cutters, computer-aided design tools, and machines that function as 3-D printers. 91

Just enough prototyping” means picking what we want to learn about and achieving just enough resolution to make that the focus. An experienced prototyper knows when to say, “Enough is enough.” 92

Most imaginable prototypes up to this point refer to physical products–stuff that hurts when you trip over it or drop it on your toes. The same rules apply when the challenge is a service, a virtual experience, or even an organization system. 92

Anything tangible that lets us explore an idea, evaluate it, and push it forward is a prototype. […] In each case an idea has been given expression through an appropriate medium to show to others for feedback. 92

Techniques borrowed from film and other creative industries suggest how we might prototype nonphysical experiences. These include scenarios, a form of storytelling in which some potential future situation or state is described using words and pictures. We might, for example, invent a character who fits a set of demographic factors that interest us–a divorced professional woman with two small children, for instance–and develop a believable scenario around her daily routine in order to “observe” how she might use an electric vehicle charger or an online pharmacy. 93

Another considerable value of scenarios is that they force us to keep people at the center of the idea, preventing us from getting lost in mechanical or aesthetic details. They remind us at every moment that we are not dealing with things but with what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “transactions between people and things.” Prototyping at work is giving form to an idea, allowing us to learn from it, evaluate it against others, and improve upon it. 94

A simple scenario structure useful in the development of new services is the “customer journey.” This structure charts the stages through which an imagined customer passes from the beginning of a service experience to the end. The starting point may be imaginary, or it may come directly from observations of people purchasing an airline ticket or deciding whether or not to install solar panels on a roof. In either case, the value of describing a customer journey is that it clarifies where the customer and the service or brand interact. Every one of these “touchpoints” points to an opportunity to provide value to a firm’s intended customers–or to derail them for good. 94

As soon as two or three children get together they start to role-play: they become doctors and nurses, pirates, aliens, or Disney characters. Without prompting, they begin to perform lengthy enactments full of complex plots and subplots. Research suggests that this form of play is not only fun but also helps establish internal scripts by which we navigate as adults. 96

Learning to feel comfortable acting out potential ideas is obviously important for anyone contemplating an experiential approach to prototyping–Mattel’s Ivy Ross went so far as to teach new recruits to the Platypus program how to use improvisational acting techniques in the first couple of weeks of the session. Knowing some of the basics, such as how to build on the ideas of one’s fellow actors and being willing to defer judgment to them, increases the likelihood that collaborative, real-time prototyping will be successful. The amateur theatrics of an experiential prototype can look foolish. It takes a certain confidence for individuals to loosen their ties, slip off their heels, and explore an idea through improvisation. 97

Things become more complicated with services, however, and particularly with services that rely on complex social interactions. Mobile telephony, for example, draws on intangible interactions of users with one another and with the system itself. Today’s complex ideas require prototypes to be released into the wild to see how they survive and adapt. 98

Another emerging form of “prototyping in the wild” involves the use of virtual worlds such as Second Life or social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. Companies can learn about proposed brands or services before they invest in the real thing. 99

Virtual prototyping allows companies to reach prospective customers quickly and get feedback from people in numerous locations. Iterations are easy, and as more of them begin to explore the prototyping potential of online social networking, we will become increasingly adept at evaluating them. Like any prototyping medium, however, there are limitations. Virtual worlds such as Second Life rely upon avatars that represent customers, but we have no idea who they really are. This can be risky, as things are not always as they appear. 99

It is one thing to talk about prototyping material objects and even intangible services, but there is also a role for prototyping more abstract challenges, such as the design of new business strategies, new business offerings, and even new business organizations. Prototypes may bring an abstract idea to life in a way that  a whole organization can understand and engage with. 100

Institutions must evolve with changing environments. Though the company “reorg” has become a cliché in business culture, it is nevertheless one of the most fateful and complex design problems any company may face, though it is rarely accompanied by any of the basic characteristics of good design thinking. Meetings are called in which there is no brainstorming; organizational charts are drawn up with little evidence of any thinking with the hands; plans are made and directives are issued without the benefit of prototyping. 102

To be sure, prototyping new organizational structures is difficult. By their nature, they are suspended in webs of interconnectedness. No unit can be tinkered with without affecting other parts of the organization. Prototyping with people’s lives is also a delicate proposition because there is, rightly, less tolerance for error. But despite this complexity, some institutions have taken a designer’s approach to organizational change. 102

When it comes to organizations, constant change is inevitable and everything is a prototype. At the most challenging times we reminded ourselves that a successful prototype is not one that works flawlessly; it is one that teaches us something–about our objectives, our process, and ourselves. 105

There are many approaches to prototyping, but they share a single, paradoxical feature: They slow us down to speed us up. By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea for too long. 105

I wrote earlier that all design thinkers, whether or not they happen to have been trained in any of the recognized design disciplines, inhabit “three spaces of innovation.” Since design thinkers will continue to “think with their hands” throughout the life of a project–aiming toward greater fidelity as it advances toward completion–prototyping is one of the practices that enable them to occupy all three realms simultaneously. 106

Prototyping is always inspirational–not in the sense of a perfected artwork but just the opposite: because it inspires new ideas. Prototyping should start early in the life of a project, and we expect them to be numerous, quickly executed, and pretty ugly. Each one is intended to develop an idea “just enough” to allow the team to learn something and move on. At this relatively low level of resolution, it’s almost best for the team members to make their own prototypes and not outsource them to others. Designers may require a fully equipped model shop, but design thinkers can “build” prototypes in cafeterias, a boardroom or a hotel suite. 106

One way to motivate early-stage prototyping is to set a goal: to have a prototype ready by the end of the first week or even the first day. Once tangible expressions begin to emerge, it becomes easy to try them out and elicit feedback internally from management and externally from potential customers. Indeed, one of the measures of an innovative organization is its average time to first prototype. 106

In the ideation space we build prototypes to develop our ideas to ensure that they incorporate the functional and emotional elements necessary to meet the demands of the market. As the project moves forward, the number of prototypes will go down while the resolution of each one goes up, but the purpose remains the same: to help refine an idea and improve it. 107

In the third space of innovation we are concerned with implementation: communicating an idea with sufficient clarity to gain acceptance across the organization, proving it, and showing that it will work in its intended market. Here too, the habit of prototyping plays an essential role. At different stages the prototypes may serve to validate a subassembly of a subassembly: the graphics on a screen, the armrest of a chair, or a detail in the interaction between a blood donor and a Red Cross volunteer. As the project nears completion, prototypes will likely be more complete. They will probably be expensive and complex and may be indistinguishable from the real thing. By this time you know you have a good idea; you just don’t yet know how good it is. 107

[…] when we sit on an airplane, shop for groceries, or check into a hotel, we are not only carrying out a function but having an experience. That function can be compromised if the experience attending it is not designed with the same mindfulness a good engineer brings to a product or an architect to a building. 110

This chapter turns to the design of experiences, examining three themes that make experience meaningful and memorable: First, we now live in what Joseph Pine and James Gilmore christened an “experience economy” in which people shift from passive consumption to active participation. Second, the best experiences are not scripted at corporate headquarters but delivered on the spot by service providers. And third, implementation is everything. An experience must be as finely crafted and precision-engineered as any other product. 110

Increasingly, however, ideas fail because people demand more of them than reliable performance in an acceptable package. The components of a product need to come together to create a great experience. This is a much more complicated proposition. 111

There have been many explanations for this new level of heightened expectation. Among the most compelling is Daniel Pink’s analysis of what might be called the psychodynamics of affluence. In A Whole New Mind, Pink argues that once our basic needs are met–as they already have been for most people in the affluent societies of the West—we tend to look for meaningful and emotionally satisfying experiences. We need only note the disproportionate growth of the service—entertainment, banking, health care—economies relative to manufacturing. Moreover, these services themselves have gone far beyond the support of basic needs: Hollywood movies, video games, gourmet restaurants, continuing education, ecotourism, and designation shopping have grown dramatically in recent years. Their value lies in the emotional resonance they create. 111-112

The real meaning of the “experience economy“, then is not primarily entertainment. The hierarchy of value they describe in their influential book–from commodities to products to services to experiences—corresponds to a fundamental shift in how we experience the world, from the primarily functional to the primarily emotional. Understanding this shift, many companies now invest in the delivery of experiences. Functional benefits alone, it seems, are no longer enough to capture customers or create the brand distinction to retain them. 112

Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation 115

From Disneyland to the Mayo Clinic, experiences can be created in the most playful and the most serious of categories. The example of SPARC suggests that design thinking cannot only be applied to products and experiences but can be extended to the process of innovation itself. 118

[…] getting people to change is difficult under the best circumstances and all but impossible in the face of resistance. One way to get people to try something new is to build on behaviors that are familiar to them. 118

By grafting the new service onto existing behavior, however, IDEO designed an experience both reassuringly familiar and invitingly new. 120

Creating an experience culture requires going beyond the generic to design experiences perceived as uniquely tailored to each customer. Unlike a manufactured product or a standardized service, an experience comes to life when it feels personalized and customized. Sometimes this feeling can be achieved through technology, in the way that Yahoo! allows people to customize their search pages. Most often it comes from the ability of experience providers to add something special or appropriate at just the right moment. This sense of timing is rarely the result of a corporate strategy developed by marketing executives working miles away and months or even years before. The design team back at home base may do a wonderful job of creating a great stage for the experience and may even create some useful scripts to help keep it moving along but they cannot anticipate every opportunity. 121

The key to creating an integrated, coordinated experience, of course was to avoid trying to create an integrated, coordinated experience. 121

The hospital industry has a record of providing discrete products and isolated amenities. We wanted them to think about service as something that happens continuously over time, with many encounters and strong emotional outcome. We were asking them, in effect, to tell a story through an experience. 123

[…] Transforming the culture of an organization is every bit as important as designing the lobby or the curbside service. Empowering employees to seize opportunities when and where they see them and giving them the tools to create unscripted experiences is an essential element of that transformation. Rather than delivering a set of instructions created for them by a bunch of designers somewhere, we encourage them to become design thinkers themselves. 123

For an idea to become an experience, it must be implemented with the same care in which it is conceived. 124

We can think of service design as equivalent to everything that goes into a great product such as as BMW. The designers and engineers go to great lengths to make sure the smell of the interior, the feel of the seats, the sound of the engine, and the whole look of the body all support and reinforce one another. 124

[…] Wright was motivated by the belief that design and execution must work together if the architect is to deliver not just the house but the experience of it. 125

The blueprint reveals on a single page both the general plan and the specific details, the final objective and the practical means of implementation. 126

Just as a product begins with an engineering blueprint and a building with an architectural blueprint, an experience blueprint provides the framework for working out the details of a human interaction. 126

The difference is that unlike the plans for an office building or a table lamp, an experience blueprint also describes the emotive elements. It captures how people travel through an experience in time. Rather than trying to choreograph that journey, however, its function is to identify the most meaningful points and turn them into opportunities. 126

As with engineering or architectural blueprints, the experience blueprint takes the form of a physical document that guides the building of an experience. Unlike a prepared script or an operations manual, it connects the customer experience and the business opportunity. Every detail holds the potential to sour a relationship–confusing signage, an inattentive doorman–but only a few offer possibilities for an experience that is distinctive, emotionally gratifying, and memorable. The blueprint is at one and the same time a high-level strategy document and fine-grained analysis of the details that matter. 127

Although the design of an experience may involve products, services, spaces and technology, an experience carries us beyond the comfortable world of measurable utility and into the hazy zone of emotional value. 128

The best and most successful experience brands have a number of things in common that may provide us with some secure guidelines. First, a successful experience requires active consumer participation. Second, a customer experience that feels authentic, genuine, and compelling is likely to be delivered by employees operating within an experience culture themselves. Third, every touchpoint must be executed with thoughtfulness and precision–experiences should be designed and engineered with the same attention to detail as a German car or a Swiss watch. 128

Mostly we rely on stories to put our ideas into context and give them meaning. It should be no surprise, then, that the human capacity for storytelling plays an important role in the intrinsically human-centered approach to problem solving, design thinking. 132

We have already seen hints of storytelling at work: in ethnographic fieldwork; in the synthesis phase, in which we begin to make sense of large accumulations of data; and in the design of experiences. In each case, we are talking about adding not just a widget but a whole new dimension to the designer’s toolkit: the “fourth dimension,” designing with time. When we create multiple touch points along a customer journey, we are structuring a sequence of events that build upon one another, in sequential order, across time. Storyboards, improvisations, and scenarios are among the many narrative techniques that help us visualize an idea as it unfolds over time. 132

Designing with time is a little different from designing in space. The design thinker has to be comfortable moving along both of these axes. 133

“We are designing verbs,” [Bill] Moggridge kept reminding us, “not nouns.” 134

To design an interaction is to allow a story to unfold over time. 134

In the early days interaction designers tended to be too prescriptive. Today, they are learning to let go and to allow the user a greater say in determining how things unfold. Almost everything now has an interactive component. The distinction between software and the products in which it is embedded has blurred, and time-based narrative techniques have entered into every field of design. 134

The specific set of tools will vary according to the particular disease or treatment, but two underlying principles are the same: first, as with every other type of time-based design project, each patients’ journey through the process will be unique; second, it will be far more effective to engage individuals as active participants in their own stories. Designing with time means thinking of people as living, growing, thinking organisms who can help write their own stories. 136

An experience that unfolds over time, engages participants, and allows them to tell their own stories will have resolved two of the biggest obstacles in the path of every new idea: gaining acceptance in one’s own organization and getting it out into the world. An idea may be a product, service, or strategy. 136

More good ideas die because they fail to navigate the treacherous waters of the organization where they originate than because the market rejects them. Any complex organization must balance numerous competing interests, and new ideas, as Harvard’s Clayton Christensen argues, are disruptive. If it is truly innovative, it challenges the status quo. Such innovations often threaten to cannibalize previous successes and recast yesterday’s innovators as today’s conservatives. They take resources away from other important programs. They make life harder for managers by presenting them with new choices, each with unknown risks–including the risk of making no choice at all. Considering all of these potential obstacles, it is a wonder that new ideas make it through large organizations at all. 136

At the heart of any good story is a central narrative about the way an idea satisfies a need in some powerful way: coordinating a dinner date with friends on opposite sides of town; making a discreet insulin injection during a business meeting; converting from a gasoline-powered to an electric-powered car. As it unfolds, the story will give every character represented in it a sense of purpose and will unfold in a way that involves every participant in the action. It will be convincing but not overwhelm us with unnecessary detail. It will include plenty of detail to ground it to some plausible reality. It will leave the audience with no doubt that the organization “narrating” it has what it takes to make it real. 137

Though it’s not always necessary to make your audience cry, a good story well told should deliver a powerful emotional punch. 138

Design thinking can help bring new products to the world, but there are occasions when it is the story itself that is the final product–when the point is to introduce what evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins famously called a “meme“, a self-propagating idea that changes behavior, perceptions, or attitudes. In today’s noisy business environment, where top-down authority has become suspect and centralized administration is no longer sufficient, a transformative idea needs to diffuse on its own. If your employees or customers don’t understand where you are going, they will not be able to help you get there. This is doubly true in the case of technology companies and other businesses whose product may not be easily recognized or understood. 139

Effective storytelling, even with high production value, does not have to break the bank. 140

Should an idea manage to survive the perilous journey through an organization and out into the market, storytelling can play another vital if obvious role: communicating its value to its intended audience in such a way that some of them, at least, want to go out and buy it. 140

Many observers have commented on the decline in the effectiveness of traditional advertising. One simple reason is that fewer people reading, looking at, or listening to traditional forms of broadcast media. But there are other reasons why thirty-second spots no longer serve as an effective vehicle for new ideas, including what the Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz has identified as the “paradox of choice.” Most people don’t want more options; they just want what they want. When overwhelmed by choice, we tend to fall into behavioral patterns used by those whom Schwartz calls “optimizers“–people paralyzed by the fear that if they only waited a little while longer or searched a little harder, they could find what they think they want at the best possible price. 141

From the perspective of the design thinker, a new idea will have to tell a meaningful story in a compelling way if it is to make itself hear. There is still a role for advertising, but less as a medium for blasting messages at people than as a way of helping turn its audience into storytellers themselves. Anyone who has a positive experience with an idea should be able to communicate its essential elements in a way that encourages other people to try it out for themselves. 142

There is almost no trick in the design thinker’s tool kit more enjoyable to observe or more productive of results than a “design challenge.” This exercise takes the form of a structured competition in which rival teams attack a single problem. A single team usually come out on top, but the collective energy and intelligence they mobilize ensures that everybody wins. 143

Design challenges are not only a great way to unleash the power of competition, they also create stories around an idea, transforming people from passive onlookers into engaged participants. 145

Effective storytelling, as part of a larger campaign of using the element of time to advance an integrated program of design thinking, relies on two critical moments: the beginning and the end. At the front end, it is essential that storytelling begin early in the life of a project and be woven into every aspect of the innovation effort. It has been common practice for design teams to bring writers in at the end to document a project once it has been completed. Increasingly they are building them into the design team from day one to help move the story along in real time. At the far end, a story gains traction when it is pricked up by its intended audience, who feel motivated to carry it forward long after the design team has disbanded and moved on to other projects. 145

The sheer excess characteristic of our time–of goods, services and information–is one reason for the declining success of conventional advertising. A second reason is that we ourselves are growing more complex and sophisticated. With access to greater volumes of information that could have been imagined by our parents’ generation, our judgments are more complex and our choices more discerning. One need only look a the hopelessly dated jingles and antics that enlivened the commercials of our childhoods to see how far we have come. It’s become impossible to sell a box of laundry detergent–much less communicate the urgency of an idea such as global warming–through a thirty-second spot. 148

[…] storytelling needs to be in the tool kit of the design thinker–in the sense not of a tidy beginning, middle and end but ongoing, open-ended narrative that engages people and encourages them to carry it forward and write their own conclusions. 148

“Design” is no longer a discrete stylistic gesture thrown at a project just before it is handed off to marketing. The new approach taking shape in companies and organizations around the world moves design backward to the earliest stages of a product’s conception and forward to the last stages of its implementation—and beyond. Allowing customers to write the last chapter of the story themselves is only one more example of design thinking in action. 148

We are at a critical point where rapid change is forcing us to look not just to new ways of solving problems but to new problems to solve. 153

It is no longer the hardware that matters but the services and applications it delivers. 155

Large companies are better positioned to look for breakthroughs within their existing markets, where technical virtuosity provides no assurance of success. It may make better sense to drive innovation from a consumer-centered perspective that allows them to exploit assets they already possess: a large customer base, recognized and trusted brands, experienced customer service and support systems, wide distribution and supply chains. This is the human-centered, desirability-based approach that design thinking is ideally suited to enhance. 159

[…] business thinking is integral to design thinking. A design solution can only benefit from the sophisticated analytical tools–discovery-driven planning, option and portfolio theory, prospect theory, customer lifetime value–that have evolved in the business sector. The unforgiving world of business can help design teams think responsibly about constraints, even as designers test those constraints as a project moves along. 160

[…] the “Ways to Grow” matrix, which evaluates the innovation efforts within an organization. By mapping innovation efforts along a vertical axis representing existing to new offerings and a horizontal axis representing existing to new users, companies can get a good picture of the balance of their innovation efforts. 161

Project in the bottom-left quadrant–close to existing offerings and existing users–tend to be incremental in nature. They are important, and indeed, the majority of a company’s effort is likely to be put into this type of innovation, which might include the extension of a successful brand or the next iteration of a current product. 162

In addition to incremental projects that secure a company’s base, it is vital to pursue evolutionary projects that stretch that base in new directions. This more venturesome goal can be reached either by extending existing offerings to solve the unmet needs of current customers of adapting them to meet the needs of new customers or markets. 162

Evolutionary innovation along the user axis might involve adapting an existing product so that it can be manufactured at a lower cost and thus marketed to a wider population. 163

The most challenging type of innovation–and the riskiest–is that in which both the product and the users are new. A revolutionary innovation creates entirely new markets, but this happens only rarely. Sony achieved this feat with the Walkman, and Apple did so twenty years later with its brilliant successor, the iPod. In neither case was the core technology new, but both companies succeeded in creating a market for a different type of musical experience. 163

[…] invention is not the same as innovation. 164

The “Ways to Grow” matrix is a tool of design thinking that companies can use to manage their innovation portfolios and remain competitive in a constantly changing world. Although the imagination may be drawn to the once-in-a-lifetime smash hits, these are few and far between. And though it may be tempting to focus on incremental projects in which business forecasts are easy to make, this shortsighted approach leaves companies vulnerable to the unforeseeable events of the type that Nassim Nicholas Taleb dubbed the “Black Swan.” Game-changing events may occur at any moment and will upend the most cautious business plan. […] a company’s best defense is to diversify its portfolio by investing across all four quadrants of the innovation matrix. 165

[…] a steady flow of innovative products rests upon an underlying culture of innovation. 166

“They liked the fish. Next time give them the net.” 171

Innovation needs to be coded into the DNA of a company if it is to have a large-scale, long-term impact. 171

Companies such as P&G, Hewlett-Packard, and Steelcase that make products and manage brands have a head start when it comes to transforming their internal cultures because they already have designers, and even some design thinkers, on their payrolls. Though it may be difficult to convince management of the merits of a more strategic role for design, once they are convinced there is often a base of talent already in place. In service organizations, or even manufacturing companies where design has traditionally been outsourced, that base may not exist and the challenge is greater. 172

[…] rather than hire a slew of internal designers, the existing staff should learn the principles of design thinking and apply them themselves. 172

It takes a systematic approach to achieve organization-wide change. Initiating nurse and administrators (or executives and clerks, or branch managers and bank tellers…) into the mysteries of design thinking can unleash passion and energy and creativity. […] It can also elicit new levels of engagement from people who may have spent so much time fighting the system that they could barely imaging having a role in redesigning it. 174

The transformation of a business-as-usual culture into one focused on innovation and driven by design involves activities, decisions, and attitudes. Workshops help expose people to design thinking as a new approach. Pilot projects help market the benefits of design thinking within the organization. Leadership focuses the program of change and gives people permission to learn and experiment. Assembling interdisciplinary teams ensures that the effort is broadly based. Dedicated spaces such as the P&G Innovation Gym provide a resource for longer-term thinking and ensures that the effort will be sustained. Measurement of impacts, both quantitative and qualitative, helps make the business case and ensures the resources are appropriately allocated. It may make sense to establish incentives for business units to collaborate in new ways so that younger talent sees innovation as a path to success rather than as a career risk. 175

Companies that suspend innovation efforts, lay off staff, and kill projects as they enter a downturn will only weaken their innovation pipeline. They may need to refocus their efforts and run their projects with fewer resources, but cutting them off altogether leaves them at risk of being blindsided when markets recover. 175

Design thinking is unlikely to become an exact science, but as with the quality movement there is an opportunity to transform it from a black art into a systematically applied management approach. The trick is to do this without sucking the life out of the creative process-to balance management’s legitimate requirements for stability, efficiency and predictability with the design thinker’s need for spontaneity, serendipity, and experimentation. The objective, as the University of Toronto’s Roger Martin reminds us, should be integration: holding these conflicting demands in tension while we create innovations, and indeed companies, that are more powerful than either of them. 176

In the world of business, every idea–however noble–must survive the test of the bottom line. 177

As consumers we are making new and different sorts of demands; we relate differently to brands; we expect to participate in determining what will be offered to us; and we expect our relationship with manufacturers and sellers to continue beyond the point of purchase. To meet these heightened expectations, companies have to yield some of their sovereign authority over the market and enter into a two-way conversation with their customers. 178

[…] there is a seemingly inexorable blurring of the line between “products” and “services,” as consumers shift from the expectation of functional performance to a more broadly satisfying experience. 178

[…] design thinking is being applied at new scales in the move from discrete products and services to complex systems. 178

[…] there is a dawning recognition among manufacturers, consumers, and everyone in between that we are entering an era of limits; the cycle of mass production and mindless consumption that defined the industrial age is not longer sustainable. 178

[…] design thinking needs to be turned toward the formulation of a new participatory social contract. It is no longer possible to think in adversarial terms of a “buyer’s market” or a “seller’s market.” Were all in this together. 178

Service companies that use innovative technology but do not innovate to improve the quality of people’s experience are destined to relearn the bitter lesson of the companies of the industrial age: that past innovation is no guarantee for future performance. 183

Just as products become more like services, services are becoming more like experiences. Underlying this profound and inevitable evolution is an understanding of the importance of investing in systematic, design-based innovation that engages people–both employees and customers–at the deepest level. Eventually it will be as natural to see innovation labs in service-sector companies as it is to see research and development facilities in manufacturing companies.  184

Every design challenge at IDEO begins with a “How Might We?” Navigating between the overtly general and the too specific, we ask ourselves, “HMW simplify the interface on an emergency heart defibrillator? HMW encourage healthy snacking among preteens? HMW promote the revival of a historic Jazz district in Kansas City?” “How might we improve the human condition?” is too big a problem to get our arms around. “How might we adjust the tension in a disk-drive eject mechanism?” is probably too small. 184

Instead of an inflexible, hierarchical process that is designed once and executed many times, we must imagine how we might create highly flexible, constantly evolving systems in which each exchange between participants is an opportunity for empathy, insight, innovation, and implementation. Every interaction is a small opportunity to make that exchange more valuable to and meaningful for all participants. 187

Design is about delivering a satisfying experience. Design thinking is about creating a multipolar experience in which everyone has the opportunity to participate in the conversation. 192

If a task ever required the combination of analytic and synthetic practices, divergent and convergent thought, the designer’s mastery of technology and insight into human behavior, preserving the health of our planet would be it. Holding the economic sustainability of society and the biological sustainability of the planet in the balance requires the most “opposable” of minds. 193

Often, in our enthusiasm for solving the problem in front of us, we fail to see the problems that we create. 194

There are at least three significant areas where design thinking can promote what the Canadian designer Bruce Mau calls the “massive change” that is called for today. The first has to do with informing ourselves about what is at stake and making visible the true costs of the choices we make. The second involves a fundamental reassessment of the systems and processes we use to create new things. The third task to which design thinking must respond is to find ways to encourage individuals to move toward more sustainable behaviors. 194

The brief being handed to design thinkers today is to find new ways of balancing desirability, feasibility, and viability, but in a way that closes the loop. 198

We need to find ways to encourage people to see energy conservation as more of an investment than a sacrifice, as so many have when they resolved to give up cigarettes, lose weight, or save for retirement. 199

Left to its own, the vicious circle of design-manufacture-marketing consumption will exhaust itself and Spaceship Earth will run out of fuel. With the active participation of people at every level, we may just be able to extend the journey for a while longer. 201

The greatest design thinkers have always been drawn to the greatest challenges, whether delivering fresh water to Imperial Rome, vaulting the dome of the Florence Cathedral, running a rail line through the British Midlands, or designing the first laptop computer. They have searched out the problems that allowed them to work at the edge because this was where they were most likely to achieve something that has not been done before. For the last generation of designers, those problems were driven by new technologies. For the next generation, the most pressing—and the most exciting—challenges may lie in the highlands of southeast Asia, the malarial wetlands of East Africa, the favelas and rain forests of Brazil, and the melting glaciers of Greenland. 203

[…] as designers we focused our skills on the object in question and ignored the rest of the system: Who will use it, how, and under what circumstances? How will it be manufactured, distributed, and maintained? Will it support cultural traditions or disrupt them? 204

[…] design thinking extends the perimeter around a problem. 205

We do not often think of going to the poorest, most neglected corners of the earth to learn about the lives of people who have fallen out of the system, but this is where we may find globally applicable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Sometimes necessity is the mother of innovation. 206

He [Dr. G. Venkataswamy, late founder of Aravind] realized that giving his patients something consistent with what they were accustomed to in their villages but still good enough to meet acceptable medical standards, allowed him to serve the poor in an economically viable way. 209

There could be no more opportune moment to imagine how we might move in the direction of a society where what we buy helps create wealth rather than just consume it. The idea of designing products, services, and business models that create a rapid return on investment seems very attractive, and it is no accident that it first appeared in places where most people have no choice. 212

The argument for working with the most extreme users, where the constraints are unforgiving and the cost of failure high, is not just a social one. It may be how we will spot opportunities that have global relevance and how we will avoid becoming the victims of the new competitors who thrive in environments where more prudent organizations fear to tread. 213

Social issues are, by definition, human-centered. The best of the world’s foundations, aid organizations, and NGOs know this, but many of them have lacked the tools to ground this commitment in ongoing, sustainable enterprises fueled not just by outside donations but by the energies and resources of the people they serve. 213

If we need to set priorities, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals would be a good place to start, but “eradicating poverty” and “promoting gender equality” are far too broad to serve as effective design briefs. If the Millennium Development Goals are to be met, they will have to be translated into practical design briefs that recognize constraints and establish metrics for success. More promising questions might be:

How might we enable poor farmers to increase the productivity of their land through simple, low-cost products and services? How might we enable adolescent girls to become empowered and productive members of their community through better education and access to services?

How might we train and support community health workers in rural communities?

How might we find low-cost alternatives to wood-burning and kerosene stoves in urban slums?

How might we create an infant incubator that does not need an electrical supply?


Perhaps the most important opportunity for long-term impact is through education. Designers have learned some powerful methods for arriving at innovative solutions. How might we use those methods not just to educate the next generation of designers but to think about how education as such might be reinvented to unlock the vast reservoir of human creative potential? 222

Our objective, when it comes to the application of design thinking in schools, must be to develop an educational experience that does not eradicate children’s natural inclination to experiment and create but rather encourages and amplifies it. As a society our future capacity for innovation depends on having more people literate in the holistic principles of design thinking, just as our technological prowess depends on having high levels of literacy in math and science. 223

If we are to build on one another’s good ideas—one of the key tenets of design thinking—we will, at least for the time being, have to focus on a finite set of problems so that our successes can be cumulative over time and place. This begins with nurturing the natural creativity of all children and keeping it alive as they advance through the education system and into professional life. There is no better way to fill the pipeline with tomorrow’s design thinkers. 225

Although we tend to see people as either thinkers or doers, analyzers or synthesizers, right-brain artists or left-brain engineers, we are whole people, and characteristics emerge when we are put into the right situation. 228

Design thinking starts with divergence, the deliberate attempt to expand the range of options rather than narrow them. 229

Asking the right kinds of questions often determines the success of a new product or service: Does it meet the needs of its target population? Does it create meaning as well value?  Does it inspire a new behavior that will be forever associated with it? Does it create a tipping point? 230

Design thinking has its origins in the training and the professional practice of designers, but these are principles that can be practiced by everyone and extended to every field of activity. There is a big difference, though between planning a life, drifting through life, and designing a life. 241

Above all, think of life as a prototype. We can conduct experiments, make discoveries, and change our perspectives. We can look for opportunities to turn processes into projects that have tangible outcomes. We can learn how to take joy in the things we create whether they take the form of a fleeting experience or an heirloom that will last for generations. We can learn that reward comes in creation and re-creation, not just in the consumption of the world around us. Active participation in the process of creation is our right and our privilege. We can learn to measure the success of our ideas not by our bank accounts but by their impact on the world. 241

As the challenges of the industrial age spread to every field of human endeavor, a parade of bold innovators who would shape the world as they have shaped my own thinking would follow him [Isambard Kingdom Brunel]. We have met many of them along the “reader’s journey” that I have tried to construct: William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, the American industrial designer Raymond Loewy, and the team of Ray and Charles Eames. What they all shared was optimism, openness to the experimentation, a love of storytelling, a need to collaborate, and an instinct to think with their hands–to build, to prototype, and to communicate complex ideas with masterful simplicity. They did not just do design, they lived design. 242


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