Design thinking has been taking over the conversation about innovation in business, marketing and yes, design. Championed by organizations including IDEO and the Rotman School of Management, design thinking focuses on the process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues with an improved future result. The future result might be a new or improved product or service, new processes or experiences for consumers or users, or new social and organizational systems.Like social marketing, design thinking starts with a human-centered approach that enables us to collectively tackle problems and ideas that are more complex than the lone designer can imagine: inaccessible healthcare, billions of people living on a few dollars a day, energy usage outpacing the planet's ability to support it, education systems that fail students, and beyond. Familiar territory to social marketers and other kinds of social change agents. I think it’s time for more design thinkers and social marketers to get to know each other and work more together, exchange ideas and bring innovation to wicked problems that desperately need our collective attention. And for more design thinking to permeate into public health people’s heads, hearts and actions. [Note: IDEO did present at our 2007 Innovations in Social Marketing Conference).
I have been using design concepts for a couple of years now in various guises, notably in the adage of our need to pay more attention to the ‘design of behaviors,’ or behavioral design, in many of our programs. We also need to bring more design thinking into social marketing programs that focus on creating and delivering products and services as well. And in public health more broadly, design thinking may just be the additional stimulus to bring more people over to the idea that our work is really about people, not audiences.