Design & Thinking’ Documentary is coming to Australia


‘Design & Thinking’ is a documentary exploring the idea of design thinking.

“Design thinking is a term that arose in order to distinguish between what others think of as design, which is usually just the surface, to the thinking behind. Thinking is something you do first, and then you make.” Paul Pangaro, CTO,, in Design & Thinking.

How do we fully engage organisations to think about the changing landscape of business, culture and society? Inspired by design thinking, this documentary grabs businessman, designers, social change-makers and unlikely individuals to portrait what they have in common when facing this ambiguous 21st century. 

What is design thinking? How is it applied in business models? How are people changing the world with their own creative minds? It is a call to the conventional minds to change and collaborate.

Rather than a salute to the beauty of design, the film aims to bring forward the ambiguity, conflicts, and the process of how not just designers, but also creative people, think and do things. Change-making organisations like Code for America are stood alongside local bike shop, biology PhD and Coca-Cola, providing real-world inspirations of what designers call design thinking. Design thinking thought leaders such as David Kelley, Bill Moggridge and Tim Brown share their beliefs as skeptics progress the movie in a thought-provoking fashion. Trying to ask right questions, they all seem to agree, is more important then providing firm answers, as is expressed in this documentary.


QLD Brisbane Screening

6pm Wednesday 19 September 2012
Followed by panel discussion
State Library of Queensland, Stanley Place, South Bank

QLD Sunshine Coast Screening

6pm Thursday 20 September 2012
Followed by panel discussion
BC&C Cinemas,
Sunshine Plaza, Maroochydre

6pm Thursday 20 September
followed by panel discussion

BC&C Cinemas, Sunshine Plaza, Maroochydre

SA Screening

6pm pre movie drinks, 6.30pm start,
25 September 2012
Mercury Cinema
13 Morphett Street  Adelaide SA 5000

TAS Screening

6pm Wednesday 3 October
Dechaineaux Theatre,
Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart

Other States TBA



Interested in learning more about ‘design thinking’?
Object Magazine’s Issue 61 Design Thinking/Design Action
is available to view online.

With a focus on Design Thinking, Issue 61 is a combination of articles, videos, audio narrations and image galleries, exploring the somewhat intangible world of design thinking. Roy Green, dean of the UTS Business School, talks about the power design can have for the business community, while Lauren Tan delves into the power of design for education and social innovation.

Check it out here


Rana Florida: Your Start-Up Life: Design Your Thinking

Thursdays at the Huffington Post, Rana Florida, CEO of The Creative Class Group, will answer readers’ questions about how they can optimize their lives. She will also feature conversations with successful entrepreneurs and creative thinkers about how they manage their businesses, relationships, careers, and more. Send your questions about work, life, and play to

From the newest app your kids play with to the mouse at your fingertips and the chair you’re sitting in, it is quite possible that the consultancy firm IDEO was involved in the design or redesign process. Employing more than 500 experts, the firm has thousands of clients across industries spanning pharmaceuticals, tech, retail and everything in between. They helped Converse design a sneaker store and Walgreens develop a community pharmacy. They designed the first mouse for Apple and another — a top-seller — for Microsoft.

One of the coolest companies to work for by many reckonings, the award-winning IDEO takes a design and creative approach to help organizations innovate. At its helm is CEO Tim Brown, the author of Change By Design (co-written with Barry Katz), a book on design thinking.

This year IDEO has been recognized with a Webby award, 13 International Design Excellence Awards, among many other accolades. It has been ranked in the top 25 most innovative companies by BusinessWeek — and nearly all the other companies are its clients!

Brown’s work has been seen at major galleries and museums, including Axis Gallery in Tokyo, the Design Museum in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He advises senior executives and boards of a number of organizations and Fortune 100 companies, such as the Mayo Clinic, Acumen Fund, Eli Lilly, Procter & Gamble, and Steelcase.

I met Brown at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where he was a featured speaker on innovation and design. He’s also participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his TED talks Serious Play and Change by Design have gotten over one million views combined.

An innovator that the most innovative businesses turn to for advice, Brown offers fascinating insights on creativity, design thinking and the birth of new ideas.

2012-08-07-TimBrown_Shanghai.jpg Brown outside the IDEO Shanghai office. Photo credit: Courtesy of IDEO/ ????????? LO CHEUK LUN.

Q: How do you find new ways of looking at things?

A: For me, changing context is often the best way to encourage new ideas. Travel helps. Studying how people think about money in a different culture, for instance, gives me inspiration not only about that place but also the meaning of money in our own society. In Asia the concept of the extended family dramatically effects how people think about saving and spending money. Spending time there and immersing myself in that perspective gives me new ideas about better services.

Q. How important is it to establish an organizational culture?

A: My sense is that most companies that have sustained success (at whatever scale) have one thing in common. They have a clear culture that employees, customers and partners resonate with.

At IDEO we think our culture has been the single most important contributor to our success. Traditional creative organizations can be quite hierarchical, but this is a hard idea to scale, especially if you want to work on a diverse range of projects. We have tried to create an organizational culture where every individual is comfortable taking risks and exploring new ideas, but where they are also fixated on helping improve the quality of each other’s ideas.

This ideal of doing great work and helping others to do great work has led us to be passionate about teaching, which has been great for learning and recruiting. It has also made us comfortable with teaching our clients how to do what we do and discouraged us from being too proprietary about our knowledge. I also think this approach has allowed us to successfully compete for the best talent in places like Silicon Valley, where there are plenty of other very wealthy companies interested in hiring creative people. I believe talented people come to IDEO because they see a culture where they can learn and create impact with other talented people who they will love being around.

Q: What traits do you look for in team members?

A: From a skills perspective, we look for depth and diversity. Sometimes this is described as T-shaped: people who have depth of ‘craft’ in a discipline such as design, business, engineering or the social sciences, but who also have a breadth of perspective and an insatiable appetite to cross disciplines and collaborate. In terms of traits, we look for people with empathy (because it is hard to design for others if you are not interested in understanding them), with creative imagination, with a drive to make ideas real rather than merely speculating about them, and, finally, with storytelling skills, because new ideas rely on great storytelling to get out into the world successfully.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: I am not sure I really think of leadership as a style. I try to be the right leader for the moment. Sometimes that means trying to inspire the organization with new ideas that might challenge the status quo. Sometimes that means jumping in and helping solve a problem with a client or IDEO team. Sometimes it means stepping back and leaving room for someone else to take the lead but being there to support them.

It took me a while to learn that approaching every leadership moment the same way is not constructive. Earlier in my career I thought my job was to try to always have the best ideas and I would strive really hard to be as personally creative as I could. Now I realize that this can stifle other talented people, and that I can be far more effective helping them develop their own ideas and giving them the confidence, if they need it, to go and make their ideas happen.

Q: What do you look for in mentors or leaders?

A: Leadership and mentorship are both services to others. It’s not so much about being in control but understanding how to get the most you can from the people you are responsible for.

I guess I look for signs that leaders and mentors have that empathy gene and are not just interested in using their position to project their own needs and desires. I also look for leaders and mentors who are happy to ‘get their hands dirty,’ to jump in and lead by doing and not just by instruction.

Q: How do you get your clients to buy into your mission of innovative and creative thinking?

A: To be honest, I don’t think you can get anyone to buy into the uncertainty of innovation through an intellectual argument. It has to be visceral in some way. The explanations help justify the commitment but they don’t create it. We find that clients get to that commitment through one of two experiences.

Some come to it because nothing else is working. They are desperate to change their business, their organization, their relationship to customers and they realize that their normal approaches simply don’t work anymore. As an example, several of the healthcare service companies (hospital systems) we have worked with initially reached out because one of their senior executives (or a senior executive’s significant other) had gone through the system recently and had a really bad experience! The realization that their current approach to patient care was broken was what inspired them to consider a different, creative approach.

Others get to that point of commitment after experiencing the creative process (perhaps in a first project with us or maybe even a workshop) and finding the experience transformational.

They realize the power of new ideas to bring optimism to the organization. They realize the value of deeply understanding consumers and customers. They get excited by creating the future and realizing their own role in that process. Innovation and creative thinking are tremendously uplifting and rewarding experiences, even when they are also really hard work. This is what motivates an ever-growing number of our clients.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration for new ideas?

A: In addition to the idea of changing context through travel that I talked about earlier, I love history and science (and the history of science most of all).

I am interested in the design of complex systems and science, whether of the natural world or the science of complexity, is greatly inspiring to me. I believe we have to adapt our methods of design to accommodate the complexity of the systems we are designing for. Many of my ideas, such as the importance of understanding emergent behavior, come from science.

History is also important to me, particularly the history of technology, design and business. We can get very excited by contemporary ideas but I find time and again that going back and looking at what great historical figures thought, such as Buckminster Fuller, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Darwin, or Peter Drucker, can be truly insightful and put things into perspective.

Q: What are your thoughts on integrative thinking?

A: As I wrote in Change By Design, I believe integrative thinking is foundational to design thinking. The ability to hold multiple ideas, perspectives, or tensions in the mind and consider them simultaneously is necessary for the process of design.

The most skillful designers have an impressive ability to spot patterns, synthesize new ideas from fragmented parts, and to empathize with people different from themselves. Designers have developed techniques over the years that help supplement our natural integrative thinking skills. Drawing, mind mapping, and prototyping are all examples of tools that help us explore complex interdependencies and resolve them into creative solutions.

Q: How would you describe the design process?

A: It can be quite dangerous to think of design as a process because that implies it is linear and standardized, neither of which is true. The reason I wrote about design thinking was to try and get away from the notion that there was one standard process. Instead I believe design is made up of a set of capacities and tools that are applied to a problem in a variety of ways, much in the way a cabinet maker knows when to use the right tool as he makes various pieces of furniture, even if he doesn’t always use them in the same order.

The important thing to remember is that design goes from being divergent (the exploration and creation of multiple ideas or choices) to convergent (the analysis and selection of alternatives), and that it is iterative. We might go out and study users to get an idea about needs and then design a series of concepts to meet those needs in various ways. We might then go back and study users’ reactions to those concepts so as to select the best ones. We may then iterate and redesign those concepts so that they better serve their intended purpose or so that they can be manufactured. We might test those more developed designs both with users and maybe also customers (such as retailers). And so on and so on.

More often today, particularly in the digital world, these iterations are going on live with paying customers, rather than in the lab. This is exciting because we get better feedback and it also reminds us that design is in fact never finished; that is always possible to develop and improve. Looking forward, I think consumers will get far more control over the of design the experiences they have in their lives. They’ll need to develop the skills of the designer to make the most of that reality.

Q: How important is diversity to an organization?

A: If you believe, as I do, that the best ideas come from making new connections and seeing new patterns, then diversity becomes a prerequisite for creativity. The insights that come from people with vastly different experiences combine to create new-to-the- world ideas. As a faster changing world demands a faster pace of innovation, the organizations that know how to harness diversity will be the ones that are most likely to adapt and successfully compete.

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Listen to The Panel: leadership and innovation – By Design – ABC Radio National

Listen to this ABC bradcast about innovation challenges in Australia. 

Leadership and innovation go hand-in-hand. By Design panel examines these concepts with Australia in mind. Where are we doing well, and where are we failing? Why are we falling behind? Design thinking is the key to understanding the changes

Guests: Dana Arnett, CEO, VSA Partners, Chicago, Speaker, AGIdeas, Melbourne, 2012; Mauro Porcini, Head, Global Design, 3M, Speaker, AGIdeas, Melbourne, 2012; Professor Ken Friedman, Dean of Faculty of Design, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne

Broadcasted on Wednesday 23 May 2012 2:38 PM

Producer: Janne Ryan


Wicked problems and business strategy: is design thinking an answer? | via THE CONVERSATION by Danielle Logue

Obesity. Climate change. Brain drain. Tax havens. War in Afghanistan. All have been described as “wicked problems”.

UC Berkeley scholars, Rittel and Webber, coined the term in 1973 when they were reacting to urban planning challenges, a frustrating process that was attempting to find scientific bases to social problems. Wicked problems were described by systems scientist and philosopher C. West Churchman as “a class of social system problems, which are ill-formulated; where the information is confusing; where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values; and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing”.

Post 9-11, the illusion of the security of linear, rational approaches to planning and problem solving was shattered and there was a spike in the usage of the term “wicked problems” across academic disciplines, public policy and the media. It was thrown around at climate change conferences, in Australian public policy initiatives, in the Harvard Business Review, and even by the Australian Tax Commissioner. “Wicked problems” are even a focus of study for members of the armed forces in the Masters of Strategy at the US Naval School in Monterey, California.

The term has resonated with public policy makers of recent years, as the problems they face – ageing, migration, poverty, sustainability – are all of this nature. They are difficult to define, ambiguous, unstable, do not have one solution, and are beyond the realm or mandate of any one department or discipline. It’s also resonating in the business community, where operating in “wicked territory” challenges existing business processes. Contemporary strategic-planning processes don’t help enterprises. Trying to define the problem is a never-ending task, the amount of information you could gather is endless, and the usual planning techniques are not generating fresh ideas.

So is it that we have more wicked problems today, or are we just categorising more difficult problems as “wicked”? What are the implications for management, and by extension management education, if you are operating in this “wicked territory” And is “design thinking” really an answer? Design thinking is not new; it can be linked to the work of the likes of John Dewey and Edward De Bono. Its ethos is human-centered, integrative, optimistic and collaborative, and warrants serious consideration as a possible creative response to wicked problems. For businesses, it is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

This is why we see a resurgence in “design thinking” for business and management, because traditional problem solving processes aren’t much help with wicked problems. Design thinking is more about unwrapping the problem solving process: it suggests that the creative process is not sequential, but overlapping and iterative; it requires input from people with different disciplines and backgrounds; it is argumentative, and requires integrative thinking. It’s about ‘failing forward’, rapid prototyping and using the wisdom of crowds. We already see very successful firms embracing some of these elements, the iconic IDEO, and newer firms such as Threadless, Local Motors and Kiva. The evidence is mounting – these are successful alternative platforms for creativity, design and problem solving.

Working in wicked territory also presents several issues for management education: the need to instill integrative thinking (this may be through experiencing design thinking processes), to build empathy in developing a human-centred approach to problem solving (by spending time with end-users, engaging in ethnographic methods), and to develop skills in boundary spanning (being able to communicate, respect and understand different worlds or business units). Even McKinsey, Dell and National Australia Bank are wanting to reinvent management for the 21st century. It is this skill set that is crucial when operating in wicked territory, in building innovation capability, and more broadly updating our managerial approach to value creation and the perceived tradeoff between economic efficiency and social progress.


Design & Thinking – a documentary on design thinking | coming soon

“Design & Thinking” is a documentary exploring the idea of “design thinking”!

It will be one of the very few documentaries on design, and certainly the first about the impact design thinking has on the world.

Design Thinking was applied as a term and methodology by a design firm in 2008. It was received as a tool to solve every problem, from daily life decisions to business challenges to world hunger problems. Attention and debates followed; some insisted on design education in all K-12 schools, some declared it is just marketing tool for that firm, some hoped it would turn his company into Apple. Some said it’s nothing new, just a new packaging of how creative people do things. 

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Join the conversation, face-to-face, live in your community at DMI Night Out!

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