I've been teaching design thinking methods to university students since 2010. Consequently, I've had a little time to reflect about what works and what doesn't. One of the first thing that jumps to mind is that students are often reluctant to dive in to design thinking methods. Despite what many practitioners of DT may say, collaboration and group brainstorming are not normal behaviours for many. It can force one to challenge deeply held beliefs about how one thinks and makes decisions. As a result, there is often a temptation to fall back on traditional analytical thinking approaches i.e. doing what is comfortable. Sometimes I will see students attempt to solve problems and then reverse engineer it to make it look that they applied a Design Thinking approach. Some students even go to the trouble of staging photographs of brainstorming sessions! This is not because the techniques don't work, it's because the tools are so challenging to what we know and hold dear! DT requires a certain confidence in our own creative capabilities and also requires us to exhibit a playfulness and extroversion that may be unsettling at first.
I think there are two main issues here. Firstly, some people are introverted and find group collaboration, of the kind advocated by design thinking, deeply uncomfortable. The second issue, is that people are often simply embarrassed to attempt to do something creative, having been discouraged from such behaviours in school and at work.
The d.Schools Fellow Margaret Hagan has created a great infographic dealing with "Design for Introverts" which illustrates a few ground rules for engaging introverts in the design process, while David and Tom Kelley's brilliant book Creative Confidence should also be required reading for anybody who questions their ability to innovate. Most of us have lost the playfulness and creative abilities that we were born with. David and Tom's book show us how to gain it back.
by Andrew Pope