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A post by
Ilayda Karagöl
Q+A SERIES
November 13, 2023

Design Thinking is dead. Long live Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is dead. Long live Design Thinking.

A post by
Ilayda Karagöl
November 13, 2023
XX
min read

Since learning about IDEO’s lay-offs of almost a third of their company in 2023, and half of their company since 2020, we have reflected on why such a pioneering company, credited for coining the term ‘design thinking’, has ended up in this position of significant downsizing. 

It's important to note that IDEO is not immune to the ongoing recession, and like other agencies, is dependent on the success of the products and companies in the market. IDEO is not the only company going through a downsizing, they’re one of many companies laying off employees at all levels in the past couple years.

Setbacks may be inevitable, but  it's how we plan for them proactively that makes a difference, and allows us to come back stronger. However, to come back stronger, we have to adapt to the realities of today and evolve and mature based on continuous learnings, just like how design matured as an industry.

Ostmodern, like IDEO, is a  design and innovation consultancy firm, which is why the news about IDEO’s layoffs stood out to us the most. Many are taking IDEO’s lay-offs as a signal that ‘design thinking’ is over, however, we don’t believe that’s the case - there are definitely lessons to be learned though, about how to apply it better.

‘Design Thinking’ is important, and is not going anywhere

Historically, ‘Design Thinking’ was big, shiny and attractive because ‘Design’ was not a familiar field within in-house teams. This is what made design agencies thrive. Now we live in a time where it's not uncommon to see design with a seat at the C-level table, and so ‘design thinking’ can be applied across the company. Design teams have become much leaner and more efficient, especially within agencies, as clients want faster and cheaper solutions to their challenges.

The intersection where design thinking lives, IDEO

Design thinking is an approach that takes into consideration: the desirability, the technological feasibility, and the economical viability of the product. At its core, it's an approach that aims to solve problems and deliver solutions, yet, somewhere along the way, ‘Design Thinking’ has mostly been used to deliver concept-level ideas and a vision. However, it must also play a part in the implementation of those concepts; to realise those ideas. Conducting innovation in silos does not deliver outcomes

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne

So, ‘Design Thinking’ is not over, it’s about getting our hands dirty in mobilising the companies we’re there to help. People with valuable skills need to accompany us on the journey, to turn innovative ideas into reality. Ideas are only good ideas, if they can be executed.

Design ‘Thinking’ and Design ‘Doing’ need to go hand in hand

From our experience, conducting innovation in silos is not effective or successful, because it is not something that can be handed over. Many agencies apply ‘Design Thinking’ in the delivery of a blue-print for  a blue sky idea, without the tools or direction and support to execute it. As a result, product teams end up in a position where they attempt to launch products from a ‘hand over’, with no support whatsoever - no understanding of the innovative initiative, no understanding of the team set up required to deliver the idea and product, and no senior stakeholders encouraging them down the right path either.

Illustration by Lucas Varela

Selling a vision and an idea is, understandably, much more attractive than getting bogged down in the ins and outs of what that means. There are still many companies out there going through a digital transformation, in need of help with ideas and a vision for radical change. However, as more and more companies employ in-house design expertise, the need for this may decrease over time. Yet, even with companies that have in-house designers, we have observed that they still struggle to take a vision from one team, and implement the product in another. There is a gap between strategy and implementation. 

The field of UX and design is evolutionary, and we have to be willing to welcome change. We have to adapt to the changes in the field and evolve with it, and start offering more actionable solutions, to deliver with purpose.

‘Delivering with purpose’ is a principle Ostmodern values greatly

We believe it’s important to empower our clients and their product teams with the right tools and processes to maintain and grow their service for the future. Helping to transform businesses is about leaving behind purposeful methods for sustainable success, as well as ideas.

Our service offering helps clients implement strategies

An ongoing delivery process that includes technical feasibility, is key to creating a viable and sustainable solution. We instil effective collaboration and communication streams within teams, to ensure a smooth transition, from prototyping concepts in exploration, to collaborating continuously with developers during build. We have clear but flexible design guidelines that can be handed over to any team, so that others can take ownership of the design and process. Our value is maximised by being integrated into client teams, working alongside each other until our vision is aligned and executed into a product.

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