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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

Design Thinking

Design Thinking, illustration

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

Have you noticed design thinking? In recent months a spate of news reports, 60 Minutes segments, and TV news reports have told how the IDEO Company and its founder, David Kelley, have developed an innovative new approach to product design. Many social service and government organizations are now looking at IDEO's design thinking as a path to process innovation in their organizations. Practitioners trying to solve wicked problems are also finding fruit in design thinking. I would like to share some reflections on these reports.

I will review computing's long history of involvement in design. Some of our software development communities, especially those under the headings of agile, participatory, and user-centered, have been design thinkers for a long time. I will offer a note of caution about the claim of some media advocates that design thinking will speed up the processes of innovation.


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