Observation 006 - Design Thinking: Let the Science Begin – Part 1


If we are honest with ourselves, the Design community needs to build a body of scientific knowledge that backs up what we have observed over time. Fortunately we have the likes of Jeanne Liedtka, Professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia to help us. Her November, 2015 article, entitled “Perspective: Linking Design Thinking with Innovation Outcomes through Cognitive Bias Reduction” is what I would call beachhead research, in that it organizes existing and long standing knowledge in order initiate a great body of further research to follow.

If you are interested in purchasing the article, you can find it here:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jpim.12163/abstract

Liedtka begins with an overview of the state of Design Thinking both in the academic research as well as profession practice worlds, with the finding that the former is behind the latter, especially in regards to Design Thinking used by “non-traditional” designers.

Then she finds a world of knowledge in which to delve into the affect Design Thinking has:

“My initial explorations suggest that the literature on cognitive bias offers a good place to start. It provides a well-researched body of work over more than five decades delineating the flaws of human beings as information processors."

Through literature review, Liedtka proposes the following Cognitive biases are areas where Design Thinking can be a mitigating factor. Below are the name of the cognitive bias and a brief description of each:

1)      Projection Bias – “Decision makers project the present into the future. Tendency to over-estimate the extent at which their future experiences of an event will resemble their current experience of an event.”

2)      Egocentric Empathy Gap – “Causes decision makers to consistently overestimate the similarity between what they value and what others value. Tendency to project their own thoughts, preferences, and behaviors onto other people.”

3)      Hot/Cold Gap – “Decision maker’s emotions (hot or cold) unduly influence their assessment of the potential value of an idea, leading them to under- or overvalue ideas.”

4)      Focusing Illusion – “Decision makers tend to over-estimate the effect of one factor at the expense of others.”

5)      Say/Do Gap – “Consumers are frequently unable to accurately describe their current situation much less make predictions.”

6)      The Planning Fallacy – “Decision makers are overly optimistic about how well-received their ideas will be.”

7)      Hypothesis Confirmation Bias – “Decision makers seek explanations that coincide with their preferred idea” and ignore explanations that conflict. Decision makers use different levels of intensity in processing information consistent with their preferences versus that which contradicts their preconceived perceptions.”

8)      The Endowment Effect – “Decision maker’s attachment to what they already have, causes aversion to something new. Loss aversion that makes giving something up more painful than the pleasure of getting something new.”

9)      The Availability Bias – “Decision makers undervalue options that are harder for them to imagine.”

Now that she has targeted biases, Liedtka begins to organize them around specific Design Thinking tools that mitigate the risk of these biases. The below image is a copy of the table within her text:

I am very happy to see serious research being done into Design Thinking and thank Jeanne Liedtka, and others for their work. As a practitioner of Design Thinking it greatly helps in the explanation of what clients can expect.