Why design thinking is the thing

This piece in the Australian Financial Review on 9 April discusses the integration of design thinking into the UTS Business School and the new Crouch Innovation Centre at the University of New South Wales.  

“Start off with a deep empathy for something. You start off with a deep empathy for an end user and you try to solve their problem. Once you go from there you can begin to ideate a solution. And there’s lots of rapid prototyping and testing. So rather than coming up with a product idea and launching one big thing, it’s about testing – it’s very iterative.”

That’s Anna Kirkpatrick, a just-minted MBA graduate from the University of Technology, Sydney, telling me about her experience with design thinking – an approach to creating and building new business ventures, which is the hottest thing in business schools around the world.

But does design thinking get results: the big results which send investors wild?

Yes, Jobs was spectacularly successful. But was he a true design thinker? He thought outside the box, acted rapidly and implemented his projects with full-on intensity. But collaboration and empathy, both precepts of design thinking, weren’t his strong points.

Before you think too hard about this question, note this. Akshay Kothari, a mechanical engineering postgrad, went to the Stanford d.school and his project was to rethink how people ate ramen noodles,according to The New York Times . His group came up with the idea of a fat straw.

He learnt a way of thinking in that assignment that led to something else. He enrolled in a d.school class called Launchpad, in which students pledge to bring a new product or service to the market in 10 weeks.

He and his partner Ankit Gupta hit the Palo Alto coffee shops to test the zeitgeist. They found that people hated having to sift the constant flow of news and information they received from many sources. Five weeks later they launched an app called Pulse, which allowed people to customise their news feeds.

This was just before the 2010 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Kothari and Gupta couldn’t get in to see Jobs’s keynote speech. So they were watching it outside when Jobs praised the Pulse app as “wonderful”. Last year LinkedIn bought their company for $US90 million.

  • Why design thinking is the thing