Among the slew of "Design Thinking Is Magic" hoopla we hear these days, Peter Merholz offers a refreshingly honest little piece in the Harvard Business Review entitled: "Why Design Thinking Won't Save You."
In it he warns business folk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. He proposes that right-brained tactics should be brought in to an organization to enhance left-brained thinking, not replace it.
Design thinking is trotted out as a salve for businesses who need help with innovation. The idea is that the left-brained, MBA-trained, spreadsheet-driven crowd has squeezed all the value they can out of their methods. To fix things, all you need to do is apply some right-brained turtleneck-wearing "creatives," "ideating" tons of concepts and creating new opportunities for value out of whole cloth.
Merholz also claims that Design Thinking is not new but that it is, simply, a new name for sociology and anthropology.
A not-so-secret truth about "design thinking" is that a big chunk of it is actually "social science thinking." Design thinkers talk about being "human-centered" and "empathic," and the tools they use to achieve that are methods borrowed from anthropology and sociology. Believe me, until very recently, they didn't teach customer research at design schools.
He makes many interesting points - each of them surrounded by many interesting counter-arguments. So let us ask you: What distinguishes Design Thinking from other types of social science thinking?