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What is Design Thinking & Why Does it Matter?

What is Design Thinking & Why Does it Matter?

Posted In // Design Tips

Hank Adams, a VP of architecture firm HDR, was recently asked by a healthcare company in a request for proposal to place his organization into one of two fields: office design or general consulting.

The question prompted him to pen an opinion piece for Healthcare Design Magazine arguing that it is unwise to compartmentalize interior design and architecture firms so strictly. Adams notes that the question “points to a common myth that design firms are focused primarily on facility aesthetics and to a lesser degree on the actual business of care delivery.”

Rather than assuming that designers only view an environment superficially, healthcare companies are best served by embracing the expertise of a firm built on the foundations of design thinking. Design thinking, says Adams, can legitimately be used to solve needs of providers and patients: it drives robust innovation, formulating every solution from the dual angles of design and strategy.

Critical moment in design thinking: November 4, 1879

What happens when a comic character gets an idea? A lightbulb shows up above their head. That hasn’t always been the case. Everything changed on November 4, 1879.

Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb on that day. What he did do was apply design thinking to the lightbulb, in turn creating what BBC Radio called the “first commercially practical incandescent light.” Edison’s achievement was due to his consideration of the entire delivery infrastructure that would generate and transmit electric power to the light.

Tim Brown (who also provided the Edison example) describes five key traits of successful design thinkers for Harvard Business Review:

1. Role-taking - If you are looking for your own healthcare design genius, you want someone who can think about care delivery from the perspectives of the patients, the leadership, the healthcare practitioners, and the support staff. Design thinkers meet needs by tapping a “‘people first’ approach.”

2. Integration - They can pull together the strong suits of two different options to result in one optimal solution.

3. Positivity - They don’t get caught up in immediate limitations but keep looking for solutions that work within or sidestep any constraints.

4. Uncharted territory - The most talented healthcare design thinkers dig deeply and find new avenues that avoid “No” answers.

5. Teamwork - As the market has become increasingly sophisticated since the turn of the century, Brown notes that “the myth of the loan creative genius” has been replaced by “the reality of the enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaborator.”

Why does design thinking matter?

Adam notes that healthcare delivery is changing quickly, particularly in light of HIPAA compliance, with two areas at the forefront: “cost containment (efficiency) and quality care (outcomes) agendas.” The patient and their family must be remembered as the hinge on which the entire system pivots. Office design thinkers look at space planning within the context of care delivery, simultaneously beautifying and problem-solving.

Beaux-Arts Group is an architecture and interior design firm specializing in the healthcare market. Using design thinking and a research-driven approach, we connect the power of space to patient comfort.

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