Over the past few years there has been an increased use of the term Design Thinking (DT). Organisations such as The NextDesign Leadership Institute and its related design consultancy, Humantific have been using the term in various projects such as the ‘Design Thinking Made Visible’ project (Humantific, 2011). The term Design Thinking gained popularity after the Stanford University Engineering School ran a course on it in 2005 (Christoph, Leifer & Plattner, 2011).
Many of the processes used by designers adopting this approach seem to come from non-design disciplines. Much of what has been taught in management schools for many years is used in Design Thinking, for example card sorts (clustering); creative thinking; and formal brainstorming (Hogan, 1999). Design Thinking has been a significant topic in the management field (Woudhuysen, 2011). Another system that has been used successfully in industry, especially in the construction field, is Value Management or Value Analysis (NSW Treasury, 2004). Looking at the Value Management/Analysis process it is possible to draw parallels with many versions of Design Thinking: they all employ a collaborative group approach.
This paper looks at some of the difficulties inherent in teaching and applying Design Thinking and discusses an approach taken in a new unit in collaborative design. It proposes that collaboration is a skill that can be developed. It also details some of the pitfalls such as the problem of identifying what designers bring to the practice that other consultants do not.