Disruptive Participatory Design

  1. Conduct research to grasp the client’s obstacles and opportunities
  2. Brainstorm to identify a unique solution, while factoring in any constraints
  3. Test and improve a prototype until you exceed client expectations
  4. Adapt the solution for application in related scenarios or industries

If you think this is the formula for a successful machining operation, you’re partially right. These principles also drive design thinking, a tactic propelling the growth of two established innovation consultancies: IDEO and frog. The method combines evolved creative problem solving with a social focus. Analysis is facilitated by asking human centric and systemic probing questions such as: What will the impact be on people and are we sure our solution meets their needs? How do we balance our client’s vision with their customer’s desires? How can we better collaborate with the end user in mind?

Thus the techniques of design thinking, in this age of connectivity that grants access to diverse viewpoints, hold the key to democratizing the design of both products and processes. The holistic strategy is transferable to a wide variety of fields. For example, frog started with industrial design in 1969, but now consults firms specializing in consumer electronics,  telecommunications, healthcare, media, education, finance, retail, and fashion. IDEO also serves the furniture,  automotive, office, toy, and food and beverage industries. Among the most impressive displays of design thinking’s capabilities are the reimagining of medical devices like the endoscope and brace at prices affordable in developing countries with the help of injection molding.

Design thinking, with its assertion that tech should serve people, not people it, is a refreshing counterweight to the cult of technology. Google bus protests in SF are a sobering reminder of the preeminence of the human factor and simultaneously question tech’s ability to cure social problems. Today’s innovative corporations and governments are adopting design thinking methodologies to understand and appeal to their user base in order to co-create a better tomorrow. May it be one in which the IDEOs and frogs of the world – the innovators that strive to resonate with an engaged and loyal audience –  are the norm.

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