Unified Theory of Design Thinking for Social Systems (thanks to d_school at Stanford)

I recently attended a 6-day course Designing for Social Systems at the Hasso Plattner d_school at Stanford University. We sent at team from our Wellness initiative at the University of Colorado Department of Medicine, cutely named “WellDOM” (more on this in a future post). It was … a mind blower.

What is design thinking and why is it so cool?

  • It is a system of thinking that both expands and focuses creative thought.
  • It encourages curiosity and diving into the ethnography of individuals
  • It also encourages thinking about positive and negative influences at many levels of social systems
  • It actively encourages play, physical manipulation of prototypes and sticky notes to build a joint vision
  • It uses storytelling, rapid cycle development, ‘what if’ and ‘how might we’ statements to spark ideas.
  • It is FUN.

I’ve been thinking and digesting what I learned over the past few months and came up with the graphic above. I’m a visual thinker, and although it is quite cluttered, I think it finally encapsulates the scope of what I now appreciate to be Design Thinking for Social Systems:

  • It is Human-Centered (focused on emotion, story, experience), the inner yellow circle
  • It is Systems-Aware (complex social systems impact your success), the outer blue circle
  • It is Strategy-Focused (keep your end-goals in mind)
  • The inner and outer circles interact, and the strategy lane underlies the whole group of activities.
  • There are perhaps 4 dozen specific activities that allow you dive deeply into every part of this diagram, in your pursuit of a creative, lateral-thinking solution to complex, ambiguous problems.

Don’t wait! Take one of these courses! And start applying it today!

CMIO’s take? Creativity, and NOT Computing Horsepower, is the next frontier.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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