Home > Design Thinking > More on Design Thinking – IDEO CEO Tim Brown

More on Design Thinking – IDEO CEO Tim Brown

Have spent some time exploring Roger Martin’s thoughts on design thinking, my next stop is IDEO CEO Tim Brown.

Tim Brown, as well as being CEO of design and innovation consulting firm IDEO, is also the author of the book Change by Design, publishing in 2009. Here are a couple videos I found where Brown speaks about this thoughts on Design Thinking, and the role design-based approaches can play in solving challenges in larger systems and society.

First, a TED talk delivered by Brown in 2009:

And then an interview with Bruce Nussbaum, also from 2009:

In this video, Brown says the following when asked to provide a definition of “Design Thinking”:

On the one hand, [Design Thinking’s] purpose is to accelarate innovation and our ability to solve some of the problems that face business and society. That’s the way I think of the [purpose of Design Thinking].

And what it is? It starts with people, what many of us here might call Human-centered Design. And then it uses a set of creative tools – the set of tools we have developed as designers like experimentation, prototyping, storytelling, visual thinking – to develop ideas such that they become useful solutions.

So it’s fairly simple. In my mind there’s nothing complex about the idea of Design Thinking.

Brown also talks about the role of participatory design – or “including the people who are ultimately going to deliver the change in the design process”. Talking about participatory design in healthcare, Brown says:

Literally the design teams are made up of nurses, IT specialists, union members, desigers. And they’ve been redesigning the way nurses change shift, they’ve been redesigning the way drugs get delivered, they’ve been redesigning the way information gets delivered to mothers as when they have new babies – lots and lots of processes within the system are getting redesigned.

And I really think that because it’s participative, because the people who are going to be responsible for delivering the change are designing the change, we end up with that change actually happening

As Nussbaum says, in this model of open source or participatory design, the people who used to be “designed for” are now participants and co-creators in the design process.

Next, Brown discusses the importance of applying design thinking to the big problems of our time – deep problems that involve complex systems and social dynamics.

Finally, Brown echoes Roger Martin’s (not sure whom influenced whom) conviction in the importance of divergent, integrative thinking to creative problem solving. In considering this multi-disciplinary approach to problems solving, I’m reminding of the feel that surrounded the founding of the Sante Fe institute – the desire amongst participants to work across disciplines to holistically approach important, fundamental, and often complex problems.


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