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Look who’s talking about design thinking and management

In the current issue of MIT Sloan Management Review (Summer 2009) there is wealth of wonderful articles about collaboration, innovation, design process and design management. One written by the magazine’s editor-in-chief Michael Hopkins— Problem Solving by Design— reviews John Shook‘s book Managing to Learn.

“In his book Managing to Learn, John Shook deconstructs the problem-solving journey of one manager and his mentor, and the management mechanism that guided them.”

Shook worked at Toyota for ten years and has become is a leader in the Lean movement. The principles of Lean Thinking were publishing in Lean Thinking (1996) by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones. An updated edition was printed in 2003.

Principles of Lean Thinking:

  1. Specify the value desired by the customer
  2. Identify the value stream for each product providing that value and challenge all of the wasted steps (generally nine out of ten) currently necessary to provide it
  3. Make the product flow continuously through the remaining value-added steps
  4. Introduce pull between all steps where continuous flow is possible
  5. Manage toward perfection so that the number of steps and the amount of time and information needed to serve the customer continually falls

I haven’t read Managing To Learn but I will. Shook’s findings alone are a satisfying salve for to any designer’s soul:

  1. Almost always, the problem you face is different from the one you thought you were facing.
  2. Most of us are so eager to find (and deliver) the solution to a problem that we jump to conclusions instead of truly investigating to the problem’s root.
  3. The A3* process provides a framework for learning in the “place where the work occurs.”


* Roughly speaking, A3 is name has given their internal design thinking program.

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