Moreover, 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. A competent designer can always improve upon last year's new widget, but an interdisciplinary team of skilled design thinkers is in a position to tackle more complex problems. 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.
The causes underlying the growing interest in design are clear. As the center of economic activity in the developing world shifts inexorably from industrial manufacturing to knowledge creation and service delivery, innovation has become nothing less than a survival strategy. It is, moreover, no longer limited to the introduction of new physical products but includes new sorts of processes, services, interactions, entertainment forms, and ways of communicating and collaborating. These are exactly the kinds of human- centered tasks that designers work on every day. The natural evolution from design doing to design thinking reflects the growing recognition on the part of today's business leaders that design has become too important to be left to designers.
Change by Design is divided into two parts. The first is a journey through some of the important stages of design thinking. It is not intended as a "how-to" guide, for ultimately these are skills best acquired through doing. What I hope to do is to provide a framework that will help the reader identify the principles and practices that make for great design thinking. As I suggest in chapter 6, design thinking flourishes in a rich culture of storytelling, and in that spirit I will explore many of these ideas by telling stories drawn from IDEO and other companies and organizations.
The first part of the book focuses on design thinking as applied to business. Along the way we will see how it has been practiced by some of the most innovative companies in the world, how it has inspired breakthrough solutions, and where, on occasion, it has overreached (any business book that claims an unbroken record of success belongs on the "fiction" shelf). Part two is intended as a challenge for all of us to Think Big. By looking at three broad domains of human activity—business, markets, and society—I hope to show how design thinking can be extended in new ways to create ideas that are equal to the challenges we all face. If you are managing a hotel, design thinking can help you to rethink the very nature of hospitality. If you are working with a philanthropic agency, design thinking can help you grasp the needs of the people you are trying to serve. If you are a venture capitalist, design thinking can help you peer into the future.
ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT IT
Ben Loehnen, my excellent editor at Harper Business, advised me that a proper book needs a proper table of contents. I have done my best to oblige. The truth is, however, that I see things a bit differently. Design thinking is all about exploring different possibilities, so I thought I would start by introducing the reader to another way of visualizing the contents of the book. There are times when linear thinking is called for, but at IDEO we often find it more helpful to visualize an idea using a technique with a long, rich history: the mind map.
Linear thinking is about sequences; mind maps are about connections. This visual representation helps me see the relationships between the different topics I want to talk about, it gives me a more intuitive sense of the whole, and it helps me to think about how best to illustrate an idea. Linear thinkers like Ben are welcome to use the table of contents; more venturesome readers may wish to consult the inside cover and view the whole of Change by Design in one place. It may prompt you to jump to a particular section of interest. It may help you retrace your steps. It may remind you of the relationships among different topics of design thinking and may even help you to think of topics that are not covered here but should be.
Experienced design thinkers may find that the mind map is all they need to capture my point of view. I hope that for everyone else the ten chapters that follow will provide a worthwhile insight into the world of design thinking and the potential it has for us to create meaningful change. If that proves to be the case, I hope you will let me know.
Palo Alto, California, May 2009