Presentation for Design for Business: Research conference, 12-13 May 2015, Melbourne, Victoria. Part of Melbourne International Design Week 2015.
Design thinking continues to be an emergent field as it pertains to business. In building design thinking capability in organizations the current focus is on design skills and tools, rather than mindset. This imbalance toward design process, methods and tools is also present within design thinking and design research literature. Mindset is little acknowledged.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate and articulate the role of mindset within design thinking capability and practice. Mindset is the perspective that informs how a person approaches and interacts in the world (Nelson & Stolterman 2013). Where mindset is acknowledged as a critical underpinning for design thinking in the literature, it is usually presented as guiding principles for design doing. There is little insight into what the different mindsets are, how to develop or enact them, or how mindset impacts on practice. Mindset remains underexplored in discussions of design competency and maturity.
By analysing qualitative data collected across three studies of a doctoral research project exploring the composition of design thinking in practice, two mindsets emerged. These were: design thinking as a way of work and design thinking as a way of life. Design thinking as a way of work is focused on the process of design thinking with the primary purpose of designing for outputs and innovation. Design thinking as a way of life is a holistic view of design thinking where the focus is on designing for transformation and creating positive change. These mindsets are scalable, applicable to an individual or organization.
The two mindsets, when mapped against competencies in design knowledge, skills and tools, contribute a framework to explore maturity in design thinking. Understanding the maturity framework, and the role of mindset within it, has implications for how an individual and organization can build capability in design thinking and maximise outcomes in the environment in which they are designing.