Rifle vs guided missile
Design thinking emphasizes early feedback and constant course corrections. Whereas traditional planning methods produce extremely detailed plans for an entire project (aim, fire – like a rifle), these more modern approaches only plan a little bit in advance and use feedback to zero in on their target (fire, aim, aim, aim – like a guided missile).
How can this apply to a skyscraper? Would design thinking advise us to build one floor, gather feedback, then plan the next one? Never. And yet design thinking emerged from the field of architecture.
Prototyping and iteration
While it is true that architects do not design buildings expecting to iterate their designs as the concrete is poured, they can still apply design principles, beginning with a human-centred gathering of needs, then iterating and prototyping their designs.
For this, the key word is disposable. Prototypes are built as cheaply as possible to demonstrate some characteristics of the intended final product. Architects may use 3D visualization, laser-cut cardboard or foam models – any means of demonstrating to the end user what the real product will be like – or won’t be, if changes are desired.
Prototyping is low risk. A wild idea may be rejected, or may inspire a radically better design. In the end the only cost may be a sheet of foam core. Prototyping takes what is in the designer’s imagination and puts it before the users’ eyes, making the design process collaborative.
Design thinking and lean startup
With design thinking, the product prototypes are iterated before the build begins. This is distinct from the lean startup approach where iteration can happen – to the business model, the software, the products on the assembly line – even after the original product or service is released to the customer.