Thursday, April 8, 2010
Book Review: Change by Design
Book Title: Change by Design
Author: Tim Brown
Year of publication: 2009
Reviewer: Mermaid Chang, CRS 625, Spring 2010
The book Change By Design introduced design thinking and the author, Tim Brown, contended that many innovations do not simply leap from the minds of so-called geniuses, but rather are actually created through design thinking. In this book, he encouraged us to be a design thinker who knows how to use design thinking, not just be a designer. What’s the difference? One of the biggest differences is that the works of designers are supposed to be “watched” and the works of design thinkers are supposed to be “watched, and, used”. In brief, a design thinker is making things easier to use, more attractive and more functional.
According to the book, design thinking begins with problem solving and then continues by experimentation and implementation, instead of just imagining the outcome. Brown explained that the process of design thinking is matching people’s needs, and then translating those needs into demands by a holistic approach. The result is working with human beings to understand the issues rather than just focusing on business and technology issues.
The writer contended that design thinking doesn’t just work in creative industries - that it could be adopted in other industries - since design thinking is integrated by nature: a balance of people, technology and business. People are the most important element of innovation - the human centered approach. Observing people’s behaviors, which relate to products and services, is emphasized in design thinking because Brown believed that the emotional feeling is as important as the functional performances. In another words, it is a balance between emotional and cognitive dimensions of design.
The project called “Keep the Change” created by the Bank of America in October, 2005 is a good example. The program helps their customers contribute to their savings accounts by automatically rounding up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transferring this difference into the customers’ saving accounts. Bank of America observed the need that people wanted (or needed) to save money so they converted this need into a demanded service by creating an easy way of saving than tossing the change into a jar.
Experimentation is also encouraged because it might help integrate the creative culture of design thinking into organizations. Brown stressed that there is nothing wrong with failure as long as it comes early and often. Organizations can still benefit from learning from failure. The best way to execute experimenting is prototyping since it’s quick, cheap and dirty. The faster we make ideas tangible, the sooner we will be able to evaluate them, refine them, and zero in on the best solution. In fact, the prototype needs to be testable, yet doesn’t need to be physical; scenarios, storyboards or acting are all good ways. One important reminder is that we need to accept the “more complex” during the process just like we say embracing the ambiguity in the creativity field. But design thinking couldn’t work without design thinkers who implement deign thinking. Find them, nurture them and free them up to do what they do best. Brown thinks those designer thinkers already exist in every industry.
The Kaiser Permanente is a case in a point. Instead of hiring a slew of internal designers, their existing staffs learn the principles of design thinking and apply them themselves to achieve organization wide change without hiring professional designers. The author is telling us that creative thinking shouldn’t just limited in the creative industry or people in the design field, it could reach to any level of organizations, products and services through design thinking.
Brown also wrote about design thinking for Harvard Business Review in June, 2008. And Nussbaum (2008) asserted it marked that the acceptance and legitimization of design/innovation as an important business process and strategic tool for managers. Besides, Tim Brown was interviewed by a magazine from Taiwan called CommomWealth. Brown stressed that how design thinking might help CEO or high managers to be keep being innovative. He suggested the first step is asking the right question and all the answers will come after observing through. Those showed that design thinking is infused into other industries.
I also recommend the cover story, “The power of design” , of Businessweek, May,17 since it is one of the articles about IDEO which could illustrated how IDEO blossomed by adopting design thinking.
As a student of creativity field, I do see a lot of similarity between CPS (Creative Problem Solving) and design thinking since design thinking adopt brainstorming, storyboard or roll playing in early stage to solve the problems. Besides, I think design thinking is more about designing an experience and an idea must be implemented with the same care to become an experience. Comparing with CPS, I think the care is the attitude in Ruth Noller’s equation and the observing process is a type of contextual thinking skill. However, design thinking emphasized the importance of developing a prototype, which CPS doesn’t stress too much except making action plan.
To sum up, I did enjoy reading the book and I believe that this book did introduce another useful process for creativity, especially for people who want to know how to implement their ideas into real works. I highly recommend it to those who want to be innovative in any field. However, the author didn’t really explain the detail methods of how to execute design thinking in the book. If you are interested, IDEO Method Cards: 51 Ways to Inspire Design(2003) will be a good choice.
Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design. New York: HarperBusiness.
Brown, T. (2008, June). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review. P.84-92.
IDEO. (2003). IDEO Method Cards: 51 Ways to Inspire Design. San Francisco: William Stout
Nussbaum, B. (2004, May, 17). The Power of Design. BusinessWeek. p.86
Nussbaum, B. (2008, June, 25). IDEO's Tim Brown On Innovation In The Harvard Business Review. BusinessWeek. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/NussbaumOnDesign/archives/2008/06/ideos_tim_brown.html?campaign_id=rss_blog_nussbaumondesign.
王曉玟(2009). 專訪IDEO執行長 布朗：請像設計師一樣思考.WealthCommon. Vol.421. Retrieved from http://www.cw.com.tw/article/index.jsp?id=37609.