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A Practical Guide for Aspiring Design Thinkers

16 July 2013

Allison read a description of a field book about design thinking that’s available for pre-order from Amazon.com and couldn’t stop smiling.

Tags: allison read, creativity, design thinking, empathy, strategy

Have you heard about design thinking? It’s pretty cool. When I asked our Vice President, Rachel Brozenske, to summarize the concept for me a few years ago she said:

“Traditional business approaches tend to try to solve problems analytically. They define a problem, look at data in the aggregate, pick a good solution, try to prove it’s right, and make big investments. A design approach looks at problems more generatively. It looks at an individual’s need and dives really deep into specific data early on, generating detail to inspire a lot of possible solutions. Then, rather than picking just one and trying to defend it, a design thinking approach suggests that we should identify each option’s underlying assumptions and try to construct specific ways to test individual assumptions with a goal of learning and iterating to a final solution.”

Before I met Rachel as a classmate at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business she was a graphic designer. I’ll confess that I initially figured this experience gave Rachel a leg up on the design thinking approach that the rest of us could only envy. While I still think her background makes her uniquely qualified to help non-designers build design thinking skills, she has long since convinced me that design thinking really is for everyone.

When Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie published their book, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers, in June 2011, Rachel wrote a blog post that summarized the book beautifully and helped me to explain to myself (and others) why I should embrace design thinking for more of my professional (and even personal) challenges.

Fast forward a few months… I was delighted for Rachel when Jeanne asked her to get more involved in teaching design thinking at Darden (both in the MBA program and for executive education clients). Fast forward again… it sure made a lot of sense to me when Jeanne and Tim asked Rachel to join them as a co-author for The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Project Guide. One of Rachel’s great gifts is helping people from all walks of life learn and apply design thinking concepts quickly. Over the years, she and Jeanne have helped me to move from, “I could never do this design thinking thing,” to, “I’m excited to teach my clients design thinking skills,” faster than I would have ever imagined.

I think you’ll find that Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers and its companion, The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Project Guide, will help you address your most wicked professional and personal challenges in wonderful ways. You can pre-order your copy of the field book now for delivery in January 2014. Or you can borrow a copy from our library next year. Once you’ve looked through it, I feel sure you’ll want your own copy so that you can start thinking like a designer, too.


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