Design Thinking - Solution-Based


Design thinking promises to provide a realistic, practical, and innovative solutions to problems of organizational concern and gives a systematic approach to finding solutions. The distinguishing feature of design thinking is that it encourages solution focused thinking or solution based thinking. The design thinker is supposed to have a clear idea of the goal of the entire process. The design thinkers are not supposed to solve every specific problem, but to start the process with the end goal in mind.

This methodology helps because by focusing on both the present and the future conditions as well as the parameters of the problem statement, alternative solutions can be explored simultaneously.

Design Thinking vs. Scientific Method

The design thinking approach is altogether different from the scientific method. The scientific method begins with rigorously defining all the parameters of the problem, so as to arrive at a solution. But a design thinker is supposed to identify both the known and the ambiguous facets of the problem statement along with the current situation. This method of thinking helps to unearth hidden parameters and open alternate paths to reach the solution.

Iterative approach − As design thinking is an iterative approach, intermediate solutions in the process of developing the larger solution to achieve the end goal can also act as prospective starting points for chalking out alternative paths. This can, at times, also lead to redefinition of the problem statement.

Problem Focused vs. Solution Focused

Where does the difference lie between problem focused solvers and solution focused solvers? The answer to this question was found by Bryan Lawson, a psychologist, in 1972.

In one of his experiments, he took two groups of students; one group consisted of final year students in architecture, whereas the other group comprised of post graduate science students. The two groups were asked to create one-layer structures with a set of colored boxes. The perimeter of the structure had to optimize either the red or the blue color; however, there were unspecified rules governing the placement and relationship of some of the blocks.

Lawson found that −

“The scientists adopted a technique of trying out a series of designs which used as many different blocks and combinations of blocks as quickly as possible. Thus they tried to maximize the information available to them about the allowed combinations. If they could discover the rule governing which combinations of blocks were allowed they could then search for an arrangement, which would the required color around the layout. [problem-focused] By contrast, the architects selected their blocks in order to achieve the appropriately colored perimeter.

If this proved not to be an acceptable combination, then the next most favorably colored block combination would be substituted and so on until an acceptable solution was discovered. [solution-focused]”

− Bryan Lawson, How Designers Think

Analysis vs. Synthesis

Analysis refers to the process of breaking down something substantial into multiple fragments or components. Synthesis is the total contrast of analysis. In Synthesis, we combine fragmented elements to form an aggregated and coherent whole.

It is to be noted that analysis and synthesis are complementary to each other and go hand in hand. Design thinkers have to synthesize based on the analysis they have done and the analysis will then follow based on what has been synthesized to verify the results and to measure the parameters.

Divergent Thinking vs. Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking involves finding many possible solutions in the first stance. This is the essence of design thinking process. The design thinkers are required to think of as many solutions as strike their brain, even if some of them don’t look viable.

Convergent thinking is a method of narrowing the available solutions to a final solution. Divergent thinking is the ability to come up with various unique ideas adherent to a single theme. Convergent thinking is the ability to find the correct solution to the given problem. Design thinking delves on divergent thinking in the beginning to ideate many solutions and then resort to convergent thinking to zero-in on the best solution.