A controversial post by Sam Ladner, followed by a rich debate between the author, Paula Thornton, Peter Merholz, Raymond Pirouz, and others.
Design is attractive to management because it is a de-politicized version of the well known socio-cultural critique of managerial practices. Design thinking is so popular because it raises only questions of "creativity" or "innovation" without ever questioning the legitimacy of managerial practice. Instead, design thinking aspires only to "better" management technique by investigating "contextual problems" or the truly innocuous "pain points."
The inconvenient truth is that the science of management fails because it treats people as either mere inputs into the production process or as faceless "consumers" who have no real stake in outcomes. Design thinking allows for these truths to remain unaddressed, thereby avoiding any discussion of power itself. Workers are cast as something to be organized or "incented." Consumers are to have their "needs met." And neither group is granted a meaningful stake in the creative process.
Mark Vanderbeeken is a senior partner at Experientia, an international experience design consultancy, based in Turin, Italy. He is also the author of the successful experience design blog Putting People First. Mark is a specialist in visioning, identity development and strategic communications and worked in Italy, Denmark, the USA and Belgium. He was communications manager of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, European communications coordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF), marketing director of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (USA) and chief press officer of Antwerp 93, Cultural Capital of Europe (Belgium).