No More Worshiping at the Altar
of Our Cathedrals of Business
January + February 2012
I’ve been reviewing an excellent
manuscript for a book on design
thinking and reading about a new
game and kit developed by IDEO
to help explain it. These things
delight me, as for years I’ve been
focused on expanding the role of
design/UX to be a full participant
in defining business strategy and
in being a catalyst for that change.
More recently, participation in
defining social strategy became
an important part of that focus.
Design thinking came to be advocated by business visionaries to
be a major part of fixing a broken
strategy-definition process [ 1]. Jon
Kolko and I wrote about and published others’ writings about such
things in interactions when we were
So, I have been intrigued by
proclamations that design thinking
is a failed experiment [ 2], that it is
misguided to attempt to describe
the process, and that design thinking must be recognized as the
purview of the trained designer.
Innumerable attempts at explaining the usually less ambitious UCD
have been greeted by similar negative reactions over the years.
Just what is going on here?
Stepping aside to look at related
happenings in a seemingly different
context can provide some insight.
In today’s world of healthcare, a
ballooning number of patients seek
at minimum full participation in
defining their diagnostic/treatment
strategy. Why? Because of an outra-
geous number of misdiagnoses [ 3],
because of what is often an insult-
ing patient experience that includes
doctors who don’t listen to or even
touch patients anymore [ 4], because
of claims that doctors tend to just
“regurgitate [knowledge] rather
than think” [ 5] and disregard limits
to their knowledge and experience,
because of a system of referrals
and approvals that prevent direct
and ready access to doctors with
needed expertise, among other
reasons—in short, because of a
healthcare system declared to be
“broken” by speaker after speaker at
Medicine 2.0’ 11 held at the Stanford
University Medical Center.