A couple of months back, the Knight Foundation blog posted a walk-up interview with Lori Lobenstine, who works at the Design Studio for Social Intervention in Boston. Lobenstine had been tapped to lead a group seminar on “Using design thinking for community information needs“, the subject of the post.
Conducted by Marika Lynch, the interview talked about design thinking, the process employed in the seminar, as well as the other projects in which design thinking approaches had proved useful. I particularly liked Lobenstine’s explanation of design thinking:
It’s a process that can be used to approach any type of problem. It means looking closely at how we are framing the problem and how folks are experiencing the problem. These are often overlooked when people think about creating solutions to a complex issue. When we approach an issue, we want to make sure we understand: How are people reacting to what we think is a problem? How are we coming up with creative new ideas based on information from the communities we are working in? And, how are we testing those solutions?
Effective design thinking builds in time and tools for empathy, creativity and testing. It means not just asking people questions but observing their behavior and how they react to whatever problem needs solving. In this case, we’ll be using design thinking to better understand on-the-ground challenges around information culture and how we can better use information to create change.
Two parts of this overview appealed to me: its focus on framing, an explicit consideration of mental models; and the collaborative embrace of softer factors like empathy and creativity. In a setting in which the future of news media models is considered, maintaining a human face can be a strong lever.
For publishers, design thinking is a useful tool in a changing market. I’ve described the publishing supply chain as global, evolving and increasingly open-ended for both supply (independent authors, as an example) and demand (forms, formats and audiences).
With so much in play, some traditional assumptions may still apply, but we need to test them using approaches like design thinking. Otherwise, we run the risk that we’ll solve problems for the last set of challenges, not the current or coming ones.