On Design Thinking & David Kelley

Posted on Jul 2, 2013

I went looking for this FastCompany article (feb ’09) on David Kelley and design thinking today, because I remember it still, and needed some inspiration. Here is the quote that stayed with me the most:

It took Kelley a while to appreciate the power of stepping back before forging ahead. In the mid-1980s, he says, he used to write proposals with the various phases of the process — understanding, observation, brainstorming, prototyping — priced separately. Clients invariably would say, “Don’t do that early fooling around. Start with phase three.” Kelley realized that the early phases were where the big ideas came from — and what separated his firm from a bunch of management consultants. “That moment was really big for me,” he says. “After that, I’d say, ‘No way, I won’t take the job if you scrap those phases. That’s where the value is.’ “

His perspective on deep vs. broad is also nice:

“When David was making the case for the d.school at Stanford,” says Tom Kelley, “he went to [university president John] Hennessy and said, ‘Look, we’re good at “deep.” We have Nobel Laureates drilling down into esoteric topics. But what if there are problems that aren’t solved by deep, but broad? We should have a side bet in broad.’ “

Its good reading for those of us interested in design thinking.