Design Thinking Promotes Superficial Ways of Knowing

Design thinking privileges a kind of innocent mind state: expertise is a burden, and prevents the kind of innovative thinking that can come only from the novice mind. It professes empathy and user-centredness, but Christian Madsbjerg says that it does so in a superficial way—with knowledge acquired through brief, limited contact. Design thinking adopts the language of the humanities, but avoids deep understanding of context in favour of rigid rules, processes, and the collection of sticky notes.

Design thinking emphasizes a quantity of ideas without always engaging with what those ideas are. It’s similar to the collector’s fallacy, where the good feeling that comes from producing and collecting ideas becomes a substitute for actually doing the work. But creativity is hard and uncomfortable. It requires sitting for long periods in states of not knowing—the only state in which true insight can emerge.


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Madsbjerg, Christian. Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm. Hachette Books, 2017.