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Design Thinking — How should we define it?

This page has three main parts:
Similar Goals – Different Strategies
My Perspectives on Design Thinking
Other Perspectives on Design Thinking
Other Views of Design Thinking
an Appendix (with miscellaneous topics)



Similar Goals with Different Strategies
What is Design Thinking?  There is no “correct answer” for this question.  Instead we have...

Similar Goals:  We want to evaluate the pros & cons of different definitions, trying to determine — when all things are considered — what definition(s) are most accurate, and most educationally useful.


Different Strategies:  In the community of educators who want to help students improve their design-thinking skills,* there is a wide range of views about the teaching strategies that will be most effective in pursuing/achieving this goal.  One part of a teaching strategy is deciding how to define design thinking (DT) so we can help students understand it better, and do it better, to improve their learning + performing + enjoying.  For many reasons, explained below, I am among those who want a broad definition of DT for objectives and process.  But others want a narrower definition for objectives (e.g. by limiting DT to traditional “design” fields, or to "people centered" objectives) or for process (e.g. by limiting DT to thinking that has an especially high quality of empathy or creativity).

* When asking “how should we define DT?” the entire community of stakeholders is much wider, because in addition to educators it also includes professional designers (who are similar to educators in some ways, but not others) and other problem-solving design doers (in all areas of life) and design studiers (in education plus business, academia,...).


Different Perspectives:  For a variety of reasons, both personal & professional, some people (educators,...) will prefer one type of definition, while others will prefer another way of defining.  Although I strongly prefer using broad definitions for objectives and process, I think "there is no correct answer" when we ask "What is Design Thinking?"

But... I also think those who “own the term” — because they were the first to call it Design Thinking, and they are its prominent advocates — have a right to define the term.  So if they (IDEO, d.school, and others) want to define it narrowly, their perspective is more important than mine.


Below you'll see my views, followed by other views.


My Perspectives on Design Thinking

I define all problem-solving thinking as design thinking, mainly because I think this wider perspective — with a wider range of life-activities included in "problem solving" than in typical conceptions of "design" — will be more educationally useful.  Also, I've been influenced by a long personal history (from the mid-1970s until now) of studying how people think and how we can solve problems more effectively with higher-quality design thinking, in a wide range of life-situations.


WHAT — Here are my wide-scope definitions for Objectives and Process:


• Objectives of Design:  I think we should use broad definitions for problem and objective:

    a problem is "any opportunity to make things better... for any aspect of life," and
    an objective (for a problem to solve) can be "any aspect of life" in a wide range of areas — in arts, sciences, engineering, business, humanities, and in everyday life — where the objective is to design (to find, invent, or improve) a better product, activity, and/or strategy* (in General Design) and/or (in Science-Design) a better explanatory theory.   /   * You use strategies in a wide variety of life-situations to make decisions (personal & professional) and to improve mental skills and physical skills.

• Process of Design Thinking:  I think we should use broad definitions for type of process, and quality of process:

    Type of Process - You use a similar process of thinking whenever you DEFINE a Problem — when you try to understand a situation so you can define a problem-solving Objective (how do you want to "make things better"?) and Goals (for a satisfactory solution) — and you try to SOLVE this Problem, to convert an actual current situation (its now-state) into a better future situation (a goal-state you want to achieve) by creatively Generating Ideas and critically Evaluating Ideas.  A similar process-of-thinking is used for all problems, so it seems like an artificial distinction to claim “some of this is design thinking, but some isn't.”  I think it's more logical, and more productive for education, to simply say “all problem-solving thinking is design thinking.
    Quality of Process - The quality of a design-thinking process can range from low to high, and we don't have to restrict the scope of design thinking by claiming that “if the quality of thinking isn't high enough — when trying to understand a situation, or define a problem, or solve a problem — then it isn't design thinking.”  Of course, for problem solving (doing design) and education (teaching design) we should try to improve the quality of process, and the quality of its result.     { Due to the many connections between strategies for problem-solving process (how to do design better) and strategies for education process (how to teach design better), usually improving either will improve the other. }


WHY — These definitions useful because a wide-scope defining of design (and design thinking) offers valuable...


Educational Benefits

Here are two kinds of related benefits:

• Using a broad definition for design & design thinking (for objectives & process) lets teachers build three kinds of educational transfer-bridges — from life to school and back into life, and between different subject areas (and areas of life) — that will help students increase their confidence about learning and their motivations to learn and transfers of problem-solving skills between different areas of life.  If we want to persuade students that Design Thinking will be personally useful for them — because they use it for almost everything they do in life — we must include problem-solving objectives that are mainly for their own benefit when understanding of self (with self-empathy) is required,* in addition to objectives for other people when understanding of others (with empathy) is required, or when the objective is mainly technical.   /   * For these self-oriented objectives, often empathy (for others) also is required.

  Using wide definitions can be useful for education, as explained above, and also useful for solving problems when we build bridges "between different areas of life" to promote transfers of skills & strategies from one area to another.


• A broad definition helps to connect design thinking with other kinds of inquiry-based instruction (PBL, POGIL, case studies, video games,...) to promote cooperation between pro-inquiry educators (who want to help teachers provide more levels of learning-from-inquiry for their students), and it improves compatibility:

    Design Process [and other models-for-process] and other views of inquiry are similar and are educationally compatible.  This will make it easier to develop instruction that uses existing inquiry activities (for design-inquiry & science-inquiry) and integrates Design Process with existing strategies for teaching inquiry, to form synergistically supportive combinations that are more effective for teaching ideas-and-skills.  {quoted from an explanation of how Design Process is old (similar) and new (distinctive)}
    Educators who appreciate the value of design thinking – as in the creative community of #dtk12chat – can show how DT is similar to other inquiry-based instruction (so it's compatible with what other educators already are doing) yet is distinctive (as in its emphases on empathy and creativity).  We can compare our perspectives and teaching strategies, to find similarities & differences.  All of us can learn from each other.  We can graciously share our knowledge and enthusiasm, welcoming educators from other communities, saying “please join our party, and invite us to yours!”   /   Although I think "our party" will be more inclusive and enthusiastic if we begin with similarities, a "party" also is welcomed by educators who have...



Other Perspectives on Design Thinking

As explained earlier, educators have "a wide range of views" about how to define design thinking (DT) "so we can help students understand it better, and do it better."

My View and Other Views:  I define all problem-solving thinking as design thinking, mainly because using this broad definition offers educational benefits.  But some other educators think we should strongly emphasize the differences between design thinking and other kinds of problem-solving thinking, because their narrower definition also "offers educational benefits." [[ I think ---- due to its educational benefits and my own personal history. but others prefer a simple alternative that offers its own educational benefits: just define design thinking as one type of problem-solving thinking that includes design thinking and also other approaches ]]


from INTRO:

Different Strategies:  In the community of educators who want to help students improve their design-thinking skills,* there is a wide range of views about the teaching strategies that will be most effective in pursuing/achieving this goal.  One part of a teaching strategy is deciding how to define design thinking (DT) so we can help students understand it better, and do it better, to improve their learning + performing + enjoying.  For many reasons, explained below, I am among those who want a broad definition of DT for objectives and process.  But others want a narrower definition for objectives (e.g. limiting DT to traditional “design” fields) or process (e.g. limiting DT to thinking that has an especially high quality of empathy or creativity).


my perspective:

I view design thinking as problem-solving thinking.  This is partly because I think this wider perspective — with a wider range of life-activities included in "problem solving" than in typical conceptions of "design" — will be more educationally useful.  Also, I've been influenced by a long personal history, from the mid-1970s until now, of studying how people think and how we solve problems in a wide range of life-situations.

I've learned about, and have learned to appreciate, many views of thinking, from a wide variety of perspectives.  I've learned from people who want to understand-and-improve the creativity & critical thinking we use in our problem-solving strategies, in our scientific methods (as viewed by scientists, philosophers, historians, sociologists, cognitive psychologists, and educators),* engineering process, general design process, strategies for effective learning (of ideas plus mental skills & physical skills), sports psychology and performing, musical improvisation, and more.  {details}

I've learned from educators with a wide range of experiences & perspectives, with a wide range of strategies for helping students develop higher-quality design thinking so they can solve problems more effectively.


While we're thinking about Design and Design Thinking, two useful concepts are:

    a general recognition that the quality of design thinking depends on Multiple Thinking-Factors, and
    my claim that a model (for the process of design thinking) is its Framework plus its Supplements.
This section is Multiple Factors & Framework plus Supplements & Defining Quality (for thinking & instruction).


Multiple Factors in Design Thinking

What determines the quality for a process of design thinking?  Many factors are important for productive thinking that effectively combines creative thinking and critical thinking with relevant ideas-knowledge.   These multiple thinking-factors include:  developing an accurate-and-thorough understanding of a problem situation - thinking with empathy (and/or self-empathy) - communication skills & collaboration skills - perseverance & flexibility (as in a creative Free Generation of Options) - wise evaluation using Quality Checks & Reality Checks - skilled uses of cognition-and-metacognition in strategies for thinking (using metacognitive knowledge & reflection & regulation - skillfully coordinating a process of design by using conditional knowledge - and more.

For each of these thinking-factors, and for an overall process of design, the quality can range along a continuum from low to high.  We can examine each factor and (when functioning as problem solvers) ask “how might we DO it better?” or (as educators) “how might we TEACH it better?” so we can help students move toward higher-quality thinking with all essential thinking-factors. 

In an effort to help students improve their skill with each thinking factor, and their overall skill in design thinking, educators have developed many models for a process of design.  When we are comparing models, a concept that I hope you'll find useful is...



Model = Framework + Supplements

We can view each model-for-process as its framework (structure for mental/physical actions) plus its supplements (for strategies to improve actions).  This concept of viewing a model as its FRAMEWORK + SUPPLEMENTS is closely related to viewing a model's educational functions as its STRUCTURE + STRATEGIES because typically a model is educationally useful by providing (in its framework) a structure for instruction and also (in its supplements) thinking strategies for how to do design better.  Both aspects of a model — its framework/structure and supplements/strategies — are important.  Both contribute to the model's accuracy (in describing a process of solving problems in a wide range of design-fields) and its educational utility (to help students improve their design thinking).


Integrative Coordination of Framework-and-Strategies:  Educators who design a model, and teachers who use it, develop methods of teaching that integrate a model's supplementary thinking strategies into its framework.  One technique for integrative coordination is using mini-activities to guide students, to stimulate their thinking, promote metacognitive reflection so they can learn more from their experiences, provide formative feedback, and help students learn-and-improve their strategies for productive thinking so they can "do design better."  Mini-activities also can be used to adjust the level of difficulty for an inquiry activity, and build classroom community.     {strategies for teaching}

Coordination with Curriculum & Instruction:  When a model-for-process (= framework/structure + supplementary strategies) is used to help students learn more from their inquiry-experiences so they can improve their problem-solving skills, the model will be integrated into a broader system for education.  Ideally, teachers will develop a coordinated system of carefully designed goal-directed curriculum & instruction — within their classrooms and at higher levels in a school, district, state, or nation.

Combining Benefits from Two Models:  In most models, the framework is a series of long-term phases with flexible timings.  These long-term phases contain shorter-term actions & sequences where productive creative-and-critical thinking actually occurs.  Adopting a perspective of framework-and-strategies helps teachers be flexible in deciding how to teach in ways that are personally customized for their own situation and educational philosophy.  And to allow even more flexibility, we can design instruction by creatively using two models to construct a hybrid model that combines the best of both models, that combines their framework-structures — the short-term sequences (in Design Process) with long-term phases (in another model-for-process, and also in Design Process) — and combines their supplementary strategies, to form hybrid models.


We'll look at 3 levels of evaluation:  for a model's Framework and Strategies, and their uses in a broader system of Curriculum & Instruction.

Evaluations of Frameworks:  Each framework offers benefits, and a hybrid model — using the

we can "get the best of both" by combining two models (to form a hybrid model) we can combine the benefits of long-term phases (in most models) and short-term actions (in Design Process).

Evaluations of Model-Frameworks:  Each framework offers benefits, and by combining two models (to form a hybrid model) we can combine the benefits of long-term phases (in most models) and short-term actions (in Design Process).

Evaluations of Thinking Strategies:  What thinking strategies will help students "do design better"?  There is no consensus among educators.   Many thinking strategies are available, with a wide variety of philosophies & techniques;  an incomplete sampling of strategy-techniques is in Wikipedia's pages about brainstorming (plus variations & see-also topics) and creativity techniques Educators (and designers) can evaluate the pros & cons of different strategy-techniques, and have productive discussions about which strategies to use (or avoid) and how to use them for instruction.     { For example, when we ask "is brainstorming useful?", some say YES (if...) and others NO. }

Evaluations of Curriculum & Instruction:  Each method of teaching — with its selection of inquiry activities, plus methods of teaching (including mini-activities & more) and ways to integrate its strategies into its framework-structure — offers its own benefits for education.   


Defining Quality — for Performance and Instruction

Performing and Teaching:  This section originally was written to criticize a definition-narrowing claim (based on PERFORMANCE) that “if thinking doesn't have high quality, then it isn't design thinking.”  Later, I thought about revising the original question (is it design thinking?) to form a related question (is it high-quality design thinking?) and asking “which question is more useful for improving INSTRUCTION?”


• Here are my original questions, regarding the practical difficulties that could occur if claims are made for performance:

    For educators who want a restrictive definition based on quality of process — by claiming that “if the quality of thinking isn't high (for a particular thinking-factor, such as empathy or creativity), then it isn't design thinking” — here are two tough questions:  HOW would a quality-standard for Design Thinking be defined?  and WHO would enforce what should and shouldn't be called Design Thinking?
    Drawing a Cutoff-Line for Education:  HOW should we define quality?  Due to multiple thinking-factors we can use a complex multi-dimensional definition of quality(s) for design thinking.  What should we do if the quality of thinking is high for some factors, but not others?  How much weighting should be given to the “people + empathy” that prominent educators think (and I agree) is an important criterion for quality?  and how much weighting for creativity?  or the variety of interdisciplinary multi-perspective inputs into a collaborative process?  and for other factors?  What should we do if the overall result is medium-high? (i.e. where is the cutoff between what is and isn't Design Thinking?)
    Defining Standards for Education:  And WHO makes a decision for this cut-off point? and for deciding, in a particular situation or generally for all situations, what does and doesn't deserve to be called Design Thinking?  Would it be possible (or useful) to establish a system-of-standards, analogous to the system of merit badges for Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts?
    Defining Standards for Business:  Typically, consultants who offer their “design thinking services (or instruction program)” to businesses are strongly motivated to defend the honor & integrity of design thinking, by setting high standards for quality.  If a potential customer has experience (first-hand or second-hand) with “design thinking” that did not deliver what was promised, consultants can claim the failure happened because “it wasn't authentic design thinking, it was deficient in creative innovation (or empathy, or critical evaluation, or making decisions, or some other thinking-factor)”, and explain why their own approach will be better, and will produce better results.

• Here are some later thoughts, regarding strategies for using definitions/standards to improve instruction:

Educators can ask “if the quality of thinking is low, is it design thinking?” for individuals or groups or (more likely, and typically more productively) for instructional activities or a curriculum for thinking skills.

Asking this question for curriculum & instruction can be useful if it leads to increased emphasis on thinking-factors that are important for high-quality design thinking.*  But instead of using quality as a binary cutoff (saying YES or NO, claiming “this is design thinking, but that isn't”), we can define quality using a high-to-low continuum with multiple dimensions (for multiple thinking-factors) and — as an important part of our discussions about how to do design better and teach design better — we can discuss the pros & cons of different teaching strategies with the goal of being more effective when we do design and teach design.  If instead of a binary definition we use a continuum definition, then instead of asking “is it design thinking” our continuum-based questions — “is it high-quality design thinking?” and “how can we increase the quality?” — will be more useful for improving education.

* One view is that an authentic process of Design Thinking must include a high quality of thinking with empathy so empathy should be strongly emphasized in a model of Design Thinking that will be used for education.  Or a teacher, in education or business, might want to strongly emphasize the importance of creativity.  Or other thinking-factors.




Other Perspectives on Design Thinking

The first two parts of the page are mainy my ideas.  This part — with Histories... and Views... — is mainly about the ideas of others.


Histories of Design Thinking

This section is called "Histories..." (not "History...") because there is not one generally accepted history.  Instead there are many perspectives & histories, including my own, so this section will contain links, plus my descriptions of pages and my comments.


my perspective:  I view design thinking in a broader context of problem-solving thinking.  This is partly because I think a wider view is useful for education.  It's also due to my long personal history, from the mid-1970s until now, of studying how people think, and how we solve problems.  I've learned about, and have learned to appreciate, many views of thinking, from a wide variety of perspectives, from people who want to understand-and-improve the creativity & critical thinking we use in our problem-solving strategies, in our scientific methods (as viewed by scientists, philosophers, historians, sociologists, cognitive psychologists, and educators), engineering process, general design process, strategies for effective learning (of ideas plus mental skills & physical skills), sports psychology and performing, musical improvisation, and more.  {details}


other perspectives:

A Brief History of Design Thinking (by Richard Kassissieh) takes a narrow historical perspective, focusing on IDEO which later inspired Stanford's d.school, saying "IDEO‘s David Kelley is cited as the pioneer of design thinking."  His focus is on programs — especially d.school and Nueva, but also Mount Vernon — that recently have been beneficially influential in k-12 education.  In fact, these are the three “lead programs” in my description of models for design thinking and for instruction.  Richard has a modest goal for his article — to "recount the history of design thinking in independent schools as I understand it. Call it ‘Design Thinking: West Coast Edition,’ if you will." — and he does this well.

A much more comprehensive history — with a broader perspective, closer to my view — is a 3-part series (one - two - three) by Stefanie Di Russo.  She describes the many influential people, coming from a wide range of perspectives during the past 50 years, who have contributed valuable ideas to design thinking.


Stefanie also wrote Design Wars about defining design (what is and isn't design thinking), re: ideas from Lucy Kimbell.  Stefanie says,

    Lucy quotes the famous line from Herbert Simon: "everyone who devises courses of action, to change existing situations into preferred ones, is doing design."  There is a reason this quote has kind of become the quintessential snapshot of design practice.  It is thus far the best summary of what fundamentally constitutes doing design.  The problem with this quote is it's very broad.  [[But I wonder “why is this a problem?”]]
    [quoting Lucy:]  But then you have this problem which some designers go into of saying actually ‘design is everything’.  If you push it that far you are saying design is everything, and therefore [[in a leap of logic that is unwarranted]] designers can tackle anything.  Which is not necessarily the case. [[I agree that this claim is not correct in practice, but I think it should not be made.]]
    So the problem we have here with this appropriate and famous quote from Simon, is that it is so general that it could be broadly applicable to pretty much any intentional action.This is where Lucy rejects the idea of ‘design is everything’.  Unless we devise a new quote for design practice, design will be seen as the governing force behind pretty much anything.  Kind of like gravity.  But if we try to ‘design’ a new definition of design, it must be broad enough to allow room for adaptation and evolution and confined enough that it has its own identity. [[but who considers "having its own identity" to be important, and why?]]


I.O.U. - I'll say more about "Design Wars" soon.  I'm trying to find the "ideas from Lucy Kimbell" which is necessary because Stefanie's link (to Lucy comments) is a "page not found" broken link.  Another page I found is Rethinking Design Thinking: Part I by Lucy Kimbell.

and a general I.O.U.  —  The rest of this part is still being developed, so it has rough spots & loose ends.   In the near future, maybe in late September, I'll continue revising it and adding to it.

you can ignore these miscellaneous scrap-ideas -- [[from Simon, who is the first person in Part 1 of Stefanie's history-series]] [[* And even when "intention" is intentionally avoided, as with the metcognitive regulation used with Inner Game approaches.]]

A summary of a keynote address by Christian Bason (Director of Innovation at Mindlab), with Lucy Kimbell part of a 5-person panel:  "First a working definition of design is needed.  As a baseline Christian suggested we see design as about ‘changing the current situation into one which is better’.  Although this definition may seem broad, it was highlighted by members of the panel that this definition has an important implication;  it makes clear that we are often designing without realising and therefore doing it amateurishly."  [I agree with this definition and the implication that "we are often designing without realising" so we should use broad definitions of design thinking, for its objectives & process-type & process-quality] ==[[find links]]


One question is about who "owns" the term?  If there is an owner — because they are the main developer for most ideas & techniques of design thinking, so it's their intellectual property — then maybe we should treat design thinking as if it's a copyrighted term that only the rights-owner has a right to define.  But if this is not “how it happened” in history, the definition(s) should be constructed by individuals & communities, and the term-uses should be determined (as they will be) by the consensus of communities & sub-communities in different areas of life, in education, academia, business,...



Views of Design Thinking  (from Educators, Designers, BusinessPeople, Scholars,...)

I.O.U. - I've just begun to find links about the diversity of perspectives, about the many great ideas worth thinking about more deeply.  Here is a start:


Above, Histories of Design Thinking describes different perspectives.  And also...


Forget Design Thinking and try Hybrid Thinking by Dev Patnaik — a "Thoughts" response (in second paragraph) — a

Design Sojourn has a discussion (of Strategic Design) and dissection (with links).


Ewan McIntosh asks "What's the difference between PBL and Design Thinking?"  He shares useful ideas, but while reading it I noticed that:

    Ewan is comparing one version of PBL (and is it a rigid stereotyped strawman of PBL?) with one version of DT.  This unequal treatment is described in a series of thoughtful post-blog comments by Jennifer, Suzie, David, Sylvia, and John, and Bianca who says "I'm not comfortable with the tone that you have taken in this blog post, nor the decision to pit teaching methods [for inquiry experiences] against each other."  I agree.  John tries to clarify what PBL is and isn't - "The reality is that there are about as many instantiations of PBL as there are classrooms.  I think it is tricky to ‘define’ PBL, and our writing and thinking encourages inclusivity rather than purity."  I agree with the educational utility of this approach, so I'm hoping the community of DT will say “welcome to our party” with a “yes, and” response, explaining that “yes, we like what you are doing, and we think DT is different (in good ways) so it can add to the educational benefits of PBL by...” so we "encourage inclusivity [with DT + PBL] rather than purity."
    I disagree with Ewan's implication that during instruction (for DT, PBL, or anything else) a teacher should never choose a design project for the purpose of achieving a specific educational goal for ideas-and-skills.  As described in my introduction to Design Activities, "The choice of a design objective can be made by teachers who carefully develop goal-directed Aesop's Activities, and by students because they will ‘do design’ for any objective they choose, although with some choices they can learn more than with others."  I think the use of goal-directed activities can be useful (in an eclectic blending of instruction) so both kinds of choices — by teachers and by students — can be valuable opportunities for learning-with-DT.

* With a broad definition of possible objectives for PBL (or DT), we can more easily use PBL (or DT) to "build projects on the experiences, questions and interests of children," as described in a comment by Sylvia.     { But asking “how should we define DT-objectives?” differs from a question of whether to define “ideal methods/models for teaching DT” more narrowly. }




APPENDIX (miscellaneous ideas, optional reading)


Where should we draw a line for individuals?  For example, ..... Imagine that you have observed 5 individuals while each worked on their own design project.  Each person defined a problem and tried to solve the problem in a basic process of design.  You evaluated their performances, and rated each person on factors you think are important (maybe those above plus others) on a scale of 1-10.*  You weighted each factor according to its importance (so some factors “count more” than others) and for each person you calculated an overall score for quality of design thinking.  The results are: 38, 54, 72, 83, 89.  When someone asks about their design thinking, ..... How many groups are doing authentic Design Thinking? none? (if none are above a 90% threshhold that someone has defined as the standard for authentic DT) or 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5?   /   [[* here are ideas for another version -- Then you carefully examine a particular process of design, assign a point value to each factor corresponding to the "quality" of thinking-and-action.  Then, using the weighting factors, you calculate an overall score for..... ]]


Definitions of Design Thinking (DT)

Tim Brown (CEO/President of IDEO) tries defining DT in two ways, as "a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity," and more simply, borrowing from Peter Drucker, as a process that "converts need into demand."  But he thinks the first definition is too narrow, and both (unlike my broad definition of DT) "assume an economic motivation."

Wikipedia claimed (in its introductory overview of Design Thinking a few months ago, in late 2014) that DT "combines empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analyzing and fitting various solutions to the problem context."  This definition seems fine.  So does its current introductory statement that "design thinking stands for design-specific cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of designing."

But later in their page, after "Origins of the term", in "Solution-based thinking" they claim that Design Thinking "differs from the analytical scientific method, which begins with thoroughly defining all the parameters of the problem in order to create a solution.  Design thinking identifies and investigates with both known and ambiguous aspects of the current situation in order to discover hidden parameters and open alternative paths which may lead to the goal.  Because design thinking is iterative, intermediate "solutions" are also potential starting points of alternative paths, including redefining of the initial problem. [earlier they said "Design thinking starts without preconceived problem definitions and solutions, in order to discover hidden parameters and alternate optimized paths to the goal."   { My initial response to this was “Huh?”  I've never seen a model of Scientific Method that begins by defining all parameters of a problem.  [but soon I'll think about their distinction more carefully]  In my initial response, which may change after further analysis, I thought this overly narrow definition (declaring that it isn't Design Thinking unless it's a certain type of thinking narrowly defined by them) should be one of the "multiple issues" described by wikipedia at the top of this page. }

BusinessDictionary.com - DT is "a method of problem-solving strategy wherein the data collected is expressed visually in order to create new strategies, ways and methods to solve problems, create opportunities or strengthen weaknesses."    { So... if data (information about a problem-situation) isn't "expressed visually" it isn't design thinking? }

[[ Grant Lichtner, in his video after a #dtk12chat in early 2014, seems to want DT defined broadly, because it's related to other problem-solving approaches. (somewhere, although i can't find it now, i have quoted & summarized his comments in specific parts of the video) ]] [[ but in his review of an education conference in March 2015, Grant criticized a 31-word summary of Design Thinking because it "purported to define design thinking without mentioning either users or empathy, perhaps the two most key elements of the process." So I'll want to look into this more closely, to understand his views in 2014 and now. ]]

in March 2015, SXSWedu had a track for "Cognitive Process and Design Thinking" -- does this recognize DT as just one way (similar to other ways?? I'm probably reading too much into a title!) of doing Cognitive Process?


my personal history:  Here is "more of the story" explaining why I view design thinking "in the context of problem-solving thinking."  Based on a long personal history of studying how people think, I view design thinking in a broad context of problem-solving thinking.  In 1975, I discovered "An Introduction to Scientific Research" by E. Bright Wilson (publ. 1953) and became very interested in how people think, especially in science but also more broadly.  In 1977, I stumbled onto the graduate program of SESAME (Search for Excellence in Science & Math Education) at UC Berkeley, and almost enrolled in it, but didn't.  This inspired me to read more widely — especially about creative thinking & general problem solving, reaching back into business in the 1950s with "creative thinking techniques" from Osbourne — and I wrote a booklet "Strategies for Problem Solving" that I used for a class at the University of Washington Experimental College.  In the mid-to-late 1980s, I wrote "Physics: Tools for Problem Solving" that included a chapter about study skills, etc, based on my reading of many books about "study skills" by Walter Pauk, Alan Lakein, and others.  In 1989, I moved to UW-Madison (from UW-Seattle) to begin graduate studies in History of Science.  In 1991, I entered a UW graduate program in Curriculum & Instruction (specializing in Science Education) and earned a PhD in 1997, with my dissertation being about scientific method, by constucting a model for it, and using this model to analyze the structure-of-instruction in an inquiry classroom. [soon this paragraph will include lots of links]  Some of the classes at UW included views of "productive thinking" from cognitive science, so this was added to other perspectives I had studied, to ideas from business in 1977-78, from study skills in the 1980s, and from many sources (scientists, philosophers, historians, sociologists, psychologists, educators,...) in the 1990s for my PhD.  Later, I generalized my model for Integrated Scientific Method into the model for Design Process (and Science Process) that you see in this website.