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Author's profile photo Itzhak Shoshan

Stop betting your careers on Design Thinking

I’m fully aware that I’m taking a risk when posting this to all you Design Thinking enthusiasts. However, if you are a true design thinker you will appreciate the criticism and it will help you become better at practicing Design Thinking.

As a Design Thinker you cannot afford to be a conformist. Just because someone came up with an approach doesn’t mean that you have to accept it as-is.  Read about its pitfalls and make sure to overcome them when you practice it.

the following 5 links are articles which were previously published by Design Thinking practitioners and highlight different pitfalls of Design Thinking process. Do read them and see if the points that they are raising applies to the way you practice Design Thinking.

1. Design Thinking is Killing Creativity | Design Sojourn

2. The Dark Side of Design Thinking

3. Design Thinking’s Timely Death | The Multidisciplinarian

4. Noah Raford: The coming boom and bust of design thinking

5. Innovation Excellence | Why Design Thinking Will Fail

… On the flip side, Design Thinking was never more popular than it is today. Check out Google Trends searches of Design Thinking phrase and tell me if this is not the best place to be right now:


To sum it up: DT is not a religion. Do Practice Design Thinking but do it with open eyes.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      It would be interesting to see how people perceive themselves - I for one see myself as a designer - not a Design Thinker, and Design Thinking offers an insight into the processes I go through in designing things, and some useful techniques in certain scenarios.

      A recent post talked about best practices, and are they in conflict with Design Thinking, I'd go further and say that methodologies and best practices are an anathema to good design. I don't mean they don't have a place, but as designers we should be evolving, and responding to the challenges in front of us, best practices commodify and make our design practices static and unresponsive. As a good designer, I strive to maintain that position that Design Thinking is an answer, but it is not the answer.

      It's good therefore to see the criticisms of design thinking, to see how a practice is co-opted, and functions in the real world, and as designers we must understand those criticisms, react and adapt, to ensure that our own thinking, and design practice is not flawed.

      Author's profile photo Itzhak Shoshan
      Itzhak Shoshan
      Blog Post Author

      Well written Nathan! I couldn't agree more.

      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      nicely put Nathan.

      If i may re-iterate on

      "Design Thinking offers an insight into the processes I go through in designing things,.."

      this is exactly why Hasso Plattner is so supportive of DT, he sees it as an approach and "way of working" for multidiciplinary teams, so we do not only have empathy with our customers / users but also for each others diciplines and designers might be better understood and respected, in particular our tech driven enterprise IT world 🙂 - also to Lucky's point below.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member


      There are million articles/blogs both for and against DT.  It is the belief and conviction about DT (or for that matter any other topic) that you and your organization has and therefore giving its full. There will be variations in practice by many organizations as long as the core principles are not sacrificed and do not look DT for short term quick benefits.  Sadly I see that is what is happening and that does not mean the spirit is/will be lost.  The churn will happen and the cream would surface.  The wait will be long and we are in it in the churn.

      Also DT as a career is weird.  According to me DT is an integral part af any role (Designer, Developer, Architect, Manager, VP, CEO, Support, Consultant, Officer, Clerk, Janitor, etc) that you would perform.   🙂



      Author's profile photo Itzhak Shoshan
      Itzhak Shoshan
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Lucky,

      I agree with the first part.

      However, while anyone can participate in DT doing. To facilitate/moderate a DT process requires specialized skills and I can see many people building a career out of it.



      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      Hi Itzhak Shoshan -

      thanks for sharing. good point!

      i agree facilitating and moderation takes special skills - see my blog post from last year Design Thinking Year of the Dragon at SAP - 10 Tips on Facilitation

      Not sure why you ask people to stop betting there carreer on it? Or do you mean that not everyone should make it a full time carreer?

      I do 100% agree with you that DT not a religion and/or dogmatic - but in constant flux and evolving and at the end of the day it does not matter what we call anything as long we do follow some core principles, to Lakshman Pachineela Seshadri



      Author's profile photo Sylvia Santelli
      Sylvia Santelli


      As a DT enthusiast myself I've noticed you really have a knack for calling out common thinking from the general population around DT. I've thought many of them myself. I think the appeal is that everyone wants to consider them selves an innovative person--creative, out-of-the-box thinker ---so to extend themselves a little further into DT makes total sense, but to what capacity. To echo Nathan's comments -- everyone can be creative but DT workshops are for a very particular set of circumstances (that wants a particular outcome) and becoming a DT coach needs a particular set of skills.

      But everyone is free to be as creative as they like, no labels needed.

      Author's profile photo Jocelyn Dart
      Jocelyn Dart

      Hmmm Itzhak ... ok kudos for making me think...

      I'd agree it's usually helpful to understand the reverse point of view - and the articles you suggest are certainly good background material in that regard.

      However as a DT coach myself, I'm a little concerned at the designation of someone who has some knowledge of Design Thinking or who has maybe just participated in Design Thinking sessions or even an experience Design Thinking facilitator as a "Design Thinker". 

      Certainly just because someone may understand another methodology such as ITIL -  ITIL® Home | ITIL® - I wouldn't characterize them as an ITIL-er.

      I suspect what's concerning me is that there may be a short step from calling myself a "Design Thinker" to calling myself a "designer" and the point I would take away from my reading of your referenced articles is that this would not only be incorrect but potentially very damaging to the desired outcomes.

      Personally I believe everyone has it in them to be creative - one of my favourite quotes is Picasso's "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."  I see Design Thinking as a way to perhaps harness some of that creativity and certainly the insight of experience from groups of people some of whom perhaps don't get regular opportunities to stretch their creative muscles. But just because I facilitate that group doesn't make me a designer either.

      Rather I see Design Thinking as predicated on a collaborative approach to design specifically to circumvent the usual pitfalls when only one person or one team of design experts are the designers.

      Further I would suggest that any methodology or approach frequently applied with an imperfect understanding of its purpose or critical components is at risk of imploding.  Which is why as Design Thinking facilitators it is vital that we are vigilant against falling into the traps mentioned in the articles you reference.

      Thanks for making me think!

      Author's profile photo Daniel Markwig
      Daniel Markwig

      Catchy headline there ... as with all the linked articles that basically say "Design Thinking is dead, but it isn't". Let me explain ...

      I'm convinced that Design Thinking is not a way to improve creativity. Basically everyone in software development is doing creative work. Programming, problem solving ARE creative endeavours (even though some people don't see themselves as being creative).

      Design Thinking is also not a workshop...thing. Yep, you can use certain types of workshops to achieve certain goals, but neither design nor Design Thinking can be checked off by doing a workshop. Or ten.

      Rather, what Design Thinking as a tool should do is ...

      - understand what the problem is they are solving and figuring out if it's the right problem to solve,

      - help people focus on and gain empathy with their customers, end users, and target markets,

      - learn to communicate between different disciplines in their team.

      That's it. It's got nothing to do with "suddenly become an artist" or "do the designers' work". It means "Think like a designer" – utilise a designer's approach to problem finding and solving. Learn to express your inherent creativity so that others understand it.

      That also means that "Design Thinker" might not be a job description but a way of working. "Design Thinking Coach" – teaching someone to do the things above – might be.

      So Design Thinking as a brand or as a headline or as a term misinterpreted by people who want to avoid change might be dead. But if what Design Thinking really means is dead we should close all product development and stop thinking about tomorrow.

      Author's profile photo Itzhak Shoshan
      Itzhak Shoshan
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Guys,

      Thank you for your great comments. This is exactly what I wanted out of this post - To get us think...

      In my view DT is great! I dont think we should stop using it. But, in the last couple of years mant started to think of it as the only way to innovate. The only way to get things done. The only way to design. This is wrong!

      There were many great innovation before the introduction of DT. There are still many new innovations that were done without DT. More importantly, there are many additional methods and processes that are great for designing and innovating new solutions. We should stop thinking of DT as the way to innovate, and start thinking of it as a way to innovate. One of many tools that each of us should master.