This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Learning more about What is Design Thinking?

A couple of posts ago in New Community Paradigms Design Team at Design Thinking Action Lab more was written about the online course on Design Thinking Action Lab taught by Leticia Britos Cavagnaro that I started to participate in through the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (aka dschool). That post focused on the Learning Squad that I was endeavoring to create. The New Community Paradigms Learning Squad ended up with five total members, all from California. We have been at it for some time now and have begun working as individuals in terms of class credit but in support of each other on the first phase of the class project.

First though, what is design thinking? Design thinking is a creative means or methodology used in defining and solving problems, particularly complex or wicked problems from the perspective of human-centered design, also called user-centered design.

Design thinking is different from what we may normally think of as design, which is a matter of using a specific set of skills, such as graphic design, in the crafting of products and services.

Design thinkers, do not have to be designers in the usual sense, but instead can come from a broad range of disciplines and through training acquire a 'design mindset'. Then bringing together their different experiences and perspectives, they collaborate in learning to apply a process of design that combines both creative and analytical thinking to defining and solving significant, complex and wicked problems.

I thought that there might be some possible relationship to systems thinking which I am also learning more about. Both have a collaborative basis. Systems thinking arguably works on a more macro level which is understandable since systems thinking looks at systems as a whole. A more micro-focused means of collaboration has also been seen as being needed and a possible choice that has been considered is design thinking.

Now though, having learned more, I would say that design thinking goes beyond being micro-focused to drilling down into the community at a subatomic level of design by focusing on a specific individual. Design Thinking demonstrates that there is an important difference between designing for individuals as the average of a class or for a group of individuals and instead designing for one specific individual. The later is more aligned with a human-centered design or user-centered design perspective by emphasizing a deeper understanding of problems from the perspective of different stakeholders, not as a member of a class or a category, but as a unique individual. It can be applied in this way to the creation of innovative products, services and processes.

Design thinking is also more concrete in its application than I perceive systems thinking, which can be pretty conceptual. While design Thinking can make extensive use of prototyping, which can be done through virtual modeling, this is always only a step in the process taking a secondary role to empathizing with the stakeholder. Overall, design thinking is a far more in the field, hands-on approach.

What New Community Paradigms wants to strive for is to go beyond bringing individuals to serve as members of a design team and incorporate design thinking into a communal setting so that it could be used as needed by a community.

However, no matter how viable design thinking is as a means of addressing challenges, it makes no matter at a community level if we cannot get enough of the right members of the community into the same room. So learning about design thinking is only a first step. There is also a need to determine a way to incorporate into a community-based setting.

Design thinking can help even with this particular challenge by assisting with the designing of flexible workspace, connecting different people and devising a common process of creative and innovative problem-solving.

There will undoubtedly be challenges in creating a platform for meaningful, self-directed community engagement that is inclusive of a variety of perspectives and even different agendas. Usually, we get engaged at the behest of someone else for a specific project, cause or event like an election. This new path would not only require a ‘design mindset’ but a different type of ‘community mindset’. Connections would not only have to be based only on past shared history or similar experiences but on a shared community outlook or common purpose as well.

New Community Paradigms not only seeks to change what we are doing in local community governance but also how we are doing it. Networking is likely going to be an essential component with small groups networking into increasingly larger ones but still keeping their own identity based on a social trust different from the political quid pro quo of current local government politics.

At this early point in the class, another working premise is that design thinking could help communities navigate the maze inherent with complex ‘wicked’ challenges. One related question raised by the class forum is ‘How comfortable are you with uncertainty?’ Will consider examining that question in light of the complexity question in a future post.

Past Posts