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from elsewhere: Barbara Armstrong on design thinking

Writing on, Kahler Slater’s Barbara Armstrong posted: It’s Time To Bring Design Thinking Down From On High

I love this post. Armstrong references Tim Brown’s TED talk on design thinking.


…design thinking is a process of integrative thinking, a process rooted in the ability to examine and exploit opposing ideas and constraints to create solutions. Design thinking, says [IDEO’s Tim] Brown, “moves the design process from consumption to participation.”

…the design-thinking process has three primary attributes: it is human centered; it is collaborative and participatory; and it is driven by experimentation. And the process begins with a single query: “What is the question that we are trying to answer?” As Brown says, “Rather than thinking to build, build to think.”

Armstrong, a veteran healthcare experience and space designer, doesn’t pull any punches when she digs into healthcare.

In today’s health care industry, there is a push for evidence-based design, a human-centered approach to design aimed at increasing the quality of patient care while simultaneously decreasing costs.

Too bad healthcare leaders had to be in crisis before they put people at the center of their problem solving. So do it now at your company. Proactively, you can drive innovative business solutions with broad, human appeal.

What I love about design thinking, particularly for healthcare, is its emphasis on empathy, participation and rapid prototyping; three concepts which have a great affinity with healthcare. For instance, I’ve never seen a hospital mission which doesn’t include some variant of empathy - compassion, caring, healing, etc.

We’re also speaking more — at least starting to speak —about participation. Ideas like shared decision-making and participatory medicine.

And, clinicians are fundamentally trained in testing ideas. Its how new techniques are developed and new treatments come to market.

But, for some reason, the business side - the systems, resources, policies, and leaders —have been slow to smash the these things together. If Reese’s were a healthcare company, no one would ever get peanut better in someone else’s chocolate.

Design thinking is about bringing those core tenants of healthcare together —empathy, participation and prototyping— to surface meaningful, desirable solutions to challenges.

In healthcare we seem value having answers. People who have answers are smart, they are sharp, and they are going places. We even pay prophets from other lands big bucks to come tell us answers.

Fundamental to the process is the belief that solutions to challenges can be uncovered by a team. That’s another reason I love design thinking in healthcare.

In design thinking, we is more important than I. Value is found in asking teams —including front line employees, for ideas, not answers. There is excitement around building on each others ideas. There is a willingness to test the ideas we co-develop and find out what actually makes someone’s life better. None of that is about being the person with an answer.

Here’s Tim Brown’s TED talk: