Design Thinking can't improve bad thinking.

It was great to be part of a workshop whose presenter lives by the codes she teaches.


The Britten Institute presented their workshop recently at Engineers NZ to a wide-ranging group of participants. Facilitator Dorenda Britten emphasised that ‘design’ is about testing your assumptions, putting yourself at risk. As she pointed out, her own design thinking has evolved and changed over the years - nothing is static, context always changes.


The workshop challenged us - ranging from engineers to Japanese Embassy staff to a clarity consultant (me) - to think wider, deeper and more holistically when designing solutions; whether that is a widget, a course or a new building.


As she said, “we don’t need more stuff, we need better thinking.”


Dorenda presented us with multiple iterations of everyday household items and challenged us to ask why - why so many, what is the purpose, why have they bothered. All of these questioning angles changed our basic assumptions, made us think wider.


Which is where ‘Designing Solutions for the 21st Century’ unapologetically starts...with PURPOSE. For any new product or service, first and foremost we need to understand what value (for the end user) we are trying to achieve. By focusing on where the value is, for whom, we find what Dorenda describes as “demonstrable value”.


This was part of the outline of a (brilliantly simple) ‘The Decision Principle’ diagram and explanation as a key resource to take away from the workshop. (I won’t steal her thunder or IP by explaining it...get to it yourself).


“We need to know where, what you’re doing, fits into the future,” she says.


This was an illuminating three hours in which I learned a considerable amount, added to my understanding of design, (and of my own writing). And if you’re after a single takeaway it was this.


“Design thinking can’t be additive.”

Past Participant - Peter Kerr, PunchLine