The Value of Design Thinking

Does Design Thinking disrupt intuition and inspiration? That’s the argument made by Robin Lanahan in this small piece in PSFK but if that’s true, how do I account for my own experience using it successfully to generate new ideas and solutions?

As an International MBA student at IE Business School, we have been taught how to use Design Thinking as one of many ways to spark innovative and creative solutions. We use the divergent and convergent thinking to generate a creative solution or set of alternatives that will address a particular problem. Yet I see Lanahan’s point, that this systemized approach could but used as a “crutch” by some companies and even inhibit the creative process. So how to explain the conflicting views?

Perhaps the answer is in experience. If psychologist Daniel Kahneman is correct, Lanahan’s extensive experience as a marketer and brand strategist should make her intuition better at solving the problems she faces than my intuition as an MBA student with a long history in accounting.

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman explains that when faced with a problem, our brain would prefer instead to solve an easier problem, a problem we’ve already solved, so it associates our current situation with one from our past.  This process happens in our “First Brain” which means we don’t know it’s happening and we interpret what our First Brain gives our thinking brain as our “intuition”. This thinking brain, or Second Brain, can then accept or reject this “gut feeling”, or incorporate it into our final decision. Therefore, our intuition is only as valuable as our experiences.

If we have a wealth of past experiences, with outcomes and “unforeseen” challenges, our intuition can be an excellent source of solutions, especially if these past experiences are very similar to the current situation. So Lanahan’s intuition can likely produce a very good solution to the challenges she faces in new product innovation at Microsoft but would be less adapt at finding viable alternatives for solving client billing problems, for example, where my experience and intuition would likely prove superior.

So perhaps the real value of Design Thinking is in helping navigate unfamiliar territory where intuition is less likely to succeed and build experience so that eventually, you don’t even have to think about it.


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