Innovation, Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design

Lately, I have been hearing a lot talk about design thinking and human-centered design. What are they? How are they different? Are they the same?

It reminds me of the old debate around user experience and “usability. You may have missed that one… The usability folks felt that “usability” was a hard science with an ISO definition and real quantitative metrics while user experience (UX) was all subjective, touchy feely stuff. The UX folks saw UX as a larger context of ‘encompassing all aspects of users’ interaction with everything’ and usability being a subset of that. The usability folks did not like being a subset… especially of something so subjective. Eventually, Usability Professional Association changed to User eXperience Professional Association and I guess that most are good on that one right now (though, there is this idea that UX is a subset of experience design)

At its simplest, design thinking is ‘thinking like a designer’ – a way of thinking – a mindset. Human-centered design, at its simplest, is ‘designing with humans at the center of the design process.’

Now, ‘thinking like a designer’ naturally leads to “design doing” – following the designers’ approach to problem solving… which, some have said, is human-centered design.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation.

If you really want to be innovative then you need to think like a designer and put the people that you are designing your solutions for at the center of your process.