What’s in a name?

I remember when my husband and I were choosing names for our children, we wanted to find the perfect name that would support their dreams.  It was a daunting task. If I knew of someone who was suspect with that name, it was stricken from the list immediately.  In branding, I worked on naming on more than a few occasions.  Then, the kiss of death was that it was not globally available to trademark.  The name of brand was built and so the key was ownership of that name.

When it came to naming what we were doing in P&G Design with our business partners over the past decade, there was much debate on what to call it. I took what I thought was the easiest path: call it what the press calls it, design thinking.  After all, as I have learned in life, in both naming a child and a brand, you grow into your name and define it for yourself eventually.  Now, there is confusion because the press is fickle and some have fallen out of favor with the name design thinking.  Today, beyond design thinking there is creative thinking, business design, hybrid thinking, integrative thinking and who knows what else?

Here is what I think.

Design thinking is an innovation capability that leverages the tools and mindsets of designers in other settings such as business, education, government, life to unearth deep empathy and to see new patterns and opportunities which lead to innovative solutions.  These solutions at times can be very simple, yet profound.  To me, design thinking is the same as creative thinking, hybrid thinking, business design and is the “team sport” of integrative thinking.  It is not a silver bullet, but a very powerful approach, mindset, and set of tools for people today in all kinds of roles with all kinds of challenges. I personally believe it is best suited for ambiguous, vexing challenges, mysteries even.

Frankly, I don’t care what it is called. I just care that people build their skills at framing, empathy, prototyping, curiosity, and story in order to benefit from this systemic approach.  I tend to call it design thinking or business design interchangeably.  After all, what’s in a name?



Read two “oldies but goody” articles on design thinking to deepen your understanding:

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