February  2019     Edition 142
Design vs. Critical Thinking

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Mike Kallet is a keynote speaker at the HR Executive Summit -
A Utah SHRM conference on March 28, 2019

Design vs. Critical Thinking:

  Lately, Iíve received several inquires about Design Thinking

and how, or if, that fits with Critical Thinking.  My response is similar to when Iím asked about

Strategic vs. Critical Thinking.


In a nutshell, Design Thinking is a structured methodology

to guide teams to create solutions with the end user centric to the solution.  While getting popular these days, its origin dates back to the 1960ís and 1970ís.    Design thinking is a great strategy for product and process development.  Critical thinking is a

foundation toolset

that is useful in each stage of Design Thinking as well as every other methodology ranging from product development to customer care, process engineering, financial and business planning, operations excellence models, total quality management, lean and six sigma, everyday problem solving and decision making, leadership and innovation strategies.

Another way to look at this is that itís not a matter of Design Thinking vs. Critical Thinking; itís really about using Critical Thinking as you implement Design Thinking.

Back to Design Thinking Ö.

Design thinking is generally a five stage process;


  Empathizing with people, their environment, culture and issues while gathering information .


  Taking what was discovered in the Empathize stage and creating a specific and focused problem to solve.


  Come up with solution ideas.  Design thinking doesnít direct any particular way to ideate, but is a stage.


  An inexpensive way to build out some of the solutions generated in ideate stage.


  You test your prototype.

Design Thinking isnít necessarily a linear process

, especially between the Ideate, Prototype and Test stages.    Youíll often come up with an idea (ideate), build a prototype and then test it, taking the feedback from testing, modifying the idea, re-creating another prototype then test again.

Critical Thinking is a process and set of tools

you would use in each stage of Design Thinking.   For example;

During the Empathize stage

you might sit with a tech support representative as they ask for a faster way to enter inbound customer data, understand and analyze why they do things a certain way, and specifically what they are trying to achieve.

During the define stage

, you would certainly want to use critical thinking to ensure the problem you think you will be solving is the problem to be solved.   Critical Thinking can help you evaluate the value of the solution with respect to the corresponding investments.

Ideation can come from many different techniques

including critical thinking for both in and outside the box ideas.

During the prototype phase

, critical thinking can be used to ensure the prototype is actually emulating the real solution.

Critical Thinking can be used during the Testing stage

to ensure the interpretation of the results is accurate.

There are dozens and dozens of methodologies

, steps and stages for just about every aspect of every business.  In each of these methods and at every step and stage, critical thinking can and should be used to ensure clarity and the appropriate conclusions that follow.

The Takeaway:
Critical Thinking is a toolset and process to use during each of the Design Thinking Stages.   Critical thinking can ensure the quality of each of the stages of Design Thinking is high, avoiding mistakes and misinterpretations of information, getting really clear on the assumptions being used and interpreting the results.

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