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Design Thinking. Systems Thinking. I Think It’s Just Semantics.
Categories: Business, Innovation

This FastCompany article says Design Thinking has outlived its usefulness and suggests we move to Systems Thinking. I think it’s just semantics – Design Thinking should incorporate the systems around it.

Why Has Design Thinking Outlived Its Usefulness, per Vassallo?

The author says that it’s been 15 years of Design Thinking, and world has become so complex that we must consider it holistically. “We live in a massively complex, intricately interconnected global system. And it’s increasingly impossible to be designers (or human beings) without taking into account how we affect and are, in turn, affected by all the moving pieces of this organic machine.”

So what is Systems Thinking?

“Systems thinking isn’t new—though it may be unfamiliar to many designers. It’s a mode of analysis that’s been around for decades. But it has newfound relevance for today’s everything-is-networked, Big Data world. Systems thinking is a mind-set—a way of seeing and talking about reality that recognizes the interrelatedness of things. System thinking sees collections of interdependent components as a set of relationships and consequences that are at least as important as the individual components themselves. It emphasizes the emergent properties of the whole that neither arise directly, nor are predictable, from the properties of the parts.”

What Is Emergence?

The key to the concept is the interconnectedness within the system, causing emergence. “What makes a system a system rather than just a collection of parts is that the components are interconnected and interdependent. Their interconnectedness creates feedback loops, which change the behavior of the system—in fact, they define the behavior of the system. Emergent properties arise that exist only in the system as a totality, and not in its disparate components, making it impossible to understand the system without looking at the whole.”

How can a you change these holistic systems?

Look for leverage points: “Rather than attempt to design a wholly new, perfect solution, oftentimes it’s better to find areas where an incremental change will lead to significant renovation in the system. The smallest nudge for the biggest effect.”

Look Around

I think the point of Design Thinking is to look at the world around itself – the system – as well as the problem itself. Ideally, Design Thinking should incorporate Systems Thinking.

For more from the author of this article, see

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