What If? And What’s Wrong?

Design Thinking and Thinking About Design We Can’t Easily See

Hiding in plain sight. How can we teach this kind of seeing? (image credit)

What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy [early proponents of DT] are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is or could be a model for retooling all of education, that it has some method for “producing reliably innovative results in any field.” They believe that we should use Design Thinking to reform education by treating students as customers, or clients, and making sure our customers are getting what they want. And they assert that Design Thinking should be a central part of what students learn, so that graduates come to approach social reality through the model of design consulting. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design consulting business.

The d.schoolers believe Design Thinking is the key to education’s future: it “fosters creative confidence and pushes students beyond the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines.” It equips students “with a methodology for producing reliably innovative results in any field.”

From the perspective of the tech industry, education and space travel are alike because they are problems in search of rational, personalized, twenty-first century answers, like those arrived at by design thinking. The expectation is that these answers will obliterate material limitations, class struggle — history, past and present.

If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Image credit
Image credit

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

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Sherri Spelic

Leadership Coach, Educator, Workshop presenter & facilitator, avid reader & writer @ home on the edge of the alps. Publisher of "Identity, Education and Power"