The passing of Steve Jobs, his subseqent biography and the recent HBR article on his management
principles has stoked tremendous interest in the importance of design in building great products and companies. Designing great products is a brilliant notion… hard to do but easy to see how effective it is when it comes to delivering a compelling customer experience.
But don’t make the mistake that great design is a substitue for great engineering. You need both. Jony Ive, Apple’s lead industrial designer is constantly pushing development to deliver great products within the framework of great design. In fact, one could argue that great engineering in and of itself is a feat of great design.
So when it comes to engineering software for instance, what is the proper place for design and design thinking — a process which emphasizes empathy with user needs and reflecting those user needs back in the design of the products which are produced?
According to Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman), who writes the IT Projects Failures blog for ZDNet, design thinking can be used to ameliorate the risks of IT project failures (Chirag Mehta’s guest post on the matter goes deeper on the topic). But Michael notes:
During the last few years, the practice of “design thinking” has become popular among some enterprise practitioners and observers. Design thinking helps structure team interactions to cultivate greater inclusiveness, foster creativity, and align participants around specific goals and results.
Chirag goes on to make the point that design thinking can leveraged by teams to avoid many of the common issues which drive IT projects into the pit of despair:
Having followed Michael Krigsman’s analysis of IT project failures, it became evident that design thinking can play an important role in improving enterprise software development and implementation. The design thinking approach offers a means to address the underlying causes of many project failures — poor communication, rigid thinking, propensity toward tunnel vision, and information silos.
Clearly, infusing design thinking into the traditional software engineering realm can have a substantial impact on the success of development projects.
While design and design thinking have become popular (I’ve read numerous posts on how startups are looking for founders with deep design experience), and that organizations are trying to implement design thinking in to mainstream businesss, its also important to recognize that design cannot only be used to improve products and services but to invent or re-invent new markets. Need an example? Well again, looking back to how Apple with their insane focus on design ended up transforming or creating new markets, including the personal computing industry, animated movies, the music industry, phones, tablet computing, brick and mortar retailing… not to mention digital publishing.