Re: [IxDA] Design is not a “problem-solving techni que”

26 Jun 2010 - 7:20am
4 years ago
8 replies
689 reads
Steve Baty
2009

Joan,

It was in response to a line contrasting design to the more scientific, analytic methods of problem-solving.

Steve

On 26 June 2010 22:07, Joan Vermette <jayeffvee@mac.com> wrote:


I wonder what the editor was trying to get at - can you say more about
the context or would you then have to kill us?

Comments

26 Jun 2010 - 2:10pm
katey
2010

Steve,

In my experience, having done primarily design work, but also some behavioral science research, good design is just as analytic, empirical, and rigorous as "scientific" methods of problem-solving. In all the design studios I have taught, two of the primary metrics of critique have always been "How well does this design solve the problem?" and "How meaningful is the solution?" I think that in business/industry our problem-solving acumen as designers is one of the primary values we bring to the table. As others here have said, the only context in which your editor's comment makes sense is if  he is referring to decoration.

- katey

26 Jun 2010 - 7:07pm
Steve Baty
2009

Katey,

I disagree with the analytic part, but certainly the empirical and rigorous. Which is not to say that design isn't analytical. I think one of the challenges we need to address as a design community is to move beyond the need to defend design as being "just as good as..." and recognise that, in many contexts, it is actually better.

I love the two metrics of critique you've articulated here. Good evaluative questions to apply in any context.

Thanks
Steve

On 27 June 2010 02:33, katey <katey.deeny@gmail.com> wrote:

Steve,

In my experience, having done primarily design work, but also some behavioral science research, g/ood/ design is just as analytic, empirical, and rigorous as "scientific" methods of problem-solving. In all the design studios I have taught, two of the primary metrics of critique have always been "How well does this design solve the problem?" and "How meaningful is the solution?" I think that in business/industry our problem-solving acumen as designers is one of the primary values we bring to the table. As others here have said, the only context in which your editor's comment makes sense is if  he is referring to decoration.

- katey

(
27 Jun 2010 - 2:05am
Navid
2010

Good news!  Roger Martin has the unified theory, the best one that matches the evidence so far.  His explication of the topic "what is design thinking" is impressive - having had him present at our Waterloo IXDA event a couple of years ago.  We can all snuggle up to the bar here and throw out our impressions, but for this conversation to leap forward we have to stand on his shoulders - we need to look and understand his research thesis.  
He takes a very broad perspective and shows that all knowledge moves from 
mystery -> heuristic -> algorithm
Intuitive thinking moves between stages, analytical thinking refines a stage. That is a huge insight which requires some explanation
He gives very practical examples of how McDonalds moved from mystery (how and what do people want to eat here in California) -> heuristic (people like burgers this way, shakes, deep fried potatoes in heavy traffic locations served within a few minutes) -> algorithms (algorithms of how thick a burger, cooked for how long, fries made in this way; algorithms refining the operations of a franchise and their machines). Once companies get into a stage, there are years and years of honing and refining within a stage.  In fact, McDonalds once the original mystery was solved as a heuristic kept at honing and refining for years and years through analytical thinking.   He proposes that companies die (and why few fortune 100 companies last more than a generation) because they stop being able to move through knowledge advancement, they stop taking on new mysteries and turning them into heuristics, and ultimately algorithms.   Will Microsoft be able to last another generation?  The answer probably doesn't lie in the things analytical thinking produces. 
The theory:
Analytical thinking, grounded in inductive and deductive logic refines knowledge in the current stage, for example, making a heuristica little bit better.   Analytical thinking wants to create reliable outcomes.  Analytical thinking gets reliability by using only a narrow range of measurable variables and crunching those.  (Martin mentions that IQ tests are built around reliability, people get the same score over and over.  However, wouldn't we want IQ tests to predict something about the future?  Well THEY DONT!  They only predict 30% of the outcomes about people we would want to predict, 70% of outcomes are not predicted by the test.  It is not a very valid predictor of much of anything other than the test!  IQ tests are not very valid.)    
Intuitive thinking, grounded in abductive logic advances knowledge between mystery->heuristic and heuristic->algorithm.Intuitive thinking is validity oriented.  Intuitive thinking, unlike analytical thinking doesn't exclude bias.
The FUNDAMENTAL form of logic required for exploring  the future ie to move knowledge from mystery->heuristic is not inductive and deductive logic.  Martin quotes the philosopher Charles Purse who said  "I cannot demonstrate any new idea in the history of the world came about from inductive or deductive logic."  This philosopher said that "though there are new ideas in the world" so there must be a "logical leap of the mind" and he called this "abductive logic."  Inference to the best explanation.  It works by observing anomalous things that don't fit existing principles, or one data point that doesn't prove anything and you still want to understand it... so you come up with the best explanation - that is intuitive thinking.  You cannot prove or come up with this explanation by extrapolation or statistical analysis of the past.  
The theory is masterful in explaining why companies (and most of their execs) which are usually reliability oriented (prove this new idea is successful) have trouble with design which is validity oriented (I know this is right!  I can't prove it!).  And why many companies can't operationalize design.
I really think these insights are right on, further, for those of us in software it clearly demonstrates something we all know.  That there IS design in the programming profession.   Basically, an interaction design and user experience is a mystery, and turning it into a heuristic of how it COULDB BE built is a design step.  Refinement and execution of the architecture is a analytical step.   I am sure we have all worked with design oriented programmers, and railed against analytical programmers who couldn't intuit the NEW to world pieces needed to solve the problem technically.
In addition to his published books:  You can view a talk about this here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKrC1nhwC5U&feature=related Or a quick paper on this here:  The Design of Businesshttp://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/rogermartin/designofbusiness.pdf
Hope that helps everyone as it did me.









On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 9:43 PM, Steve Baty <stevebaty@gmail.com> wrote:

Katey,

I disagree with the analytic part, but certainly the empirical and rigorous. Which is not to say that design isn't analytical. I think one of the challenges we need to address as a design community is to move beyond the need to defend design as being "just as good as..." and recognise that, in many contexts, it is actually better.

I love the two metrics of critique you've articulated here. Good evaluative questions to apply in any context.

Thanks
Steve

On 27 June 2010 02:33, katey <katey.deeny@gmail.com [1]> wrote:

Steve,

In my experience, having done primarily design work, but also some behavioral science research, g/ood/ design is just as analytic, empirical, and rigorous as "scientific" methods of problem-solving. In all the design studios I have taught, two of the primary metrics of critique have always been "How well does this design solve the problem?" and "How meaningful is the solution?" I think that in business/industry our problem-solving acumen as designers is one of the primary values we bring to the table. As others here have said, the only context in which your editor's comment makes sense is if  he is referring to decoration.

- katey

(

(((Please leave all content below this l
27 Jun 2010 - 7:47pm
elvenmuse
2010

Design is a problem-solving method, but also it searches for what type of problems have to be solved... inventing solutions to problems people didn't knew they had, or proyecting improvements to existing inventions.

28 Jun 2010 - 9:11am
Jared M. Spool
2003

Not to drive us deeper into the world of semantics, but I'm really having trouble with the words 'technique' and 'method'.

Broiling, Roasting, and Frying are all Cooking 'methods'. Cooking is not a method. It's the opposite of not cooking, but I wouldn't call it a 'method'.

I can't get my head around the idea that 'design' is a problem-solving method. At best, it's a problem-solving approach, if you somehow think that simulation or analysis aren't somehow associated with design.

(And I don't completly by the design-is-distinguished-by-abductive-reasoning argument either. There's good design that can come from non-abductive reasoning techniques. Not everything is gut.)

So, I'm not drinking the Kool-aid here. Or I'm not as smart as y'all. (Probably the latter is more correct.)

28 Jun 2010 - 10:18am
Chris Risdon
2010

I do think you are right that care should be given to the semantic accuracy of labels like 'method' and 'technique' as applied to design activities as a means for problem solving. But I do think the original reference of Steve's post "design is/is not a 'problem solving technique'" isn't necessarily semantically incorrect. Looking up one of the definitions of 'technique' as: the body of specialized procedures and methods used in any specific field

I think that is a decent generalized description for the label "Design Technique" while not applying specific attributes (as one discipline may apply one set of 'specialized procedures and methods' while another discipline might apply another set). I actually think "design approach" implies a more singular meaning - i.e. there is only *one* approach in applying design as a problem solving activity. (but that is just my association to the word 'approach', not necessarily saying it's semantically incorrect) And I'm agreeing that 'method' would be inappropriate. (and also agree that design is not exclusively distinguished by abductive reason)

 

30 Jun 2010 - 9:05am
Navid
2010

If you read my previous post, Roger Martin defines design thinking as the mix of analytical reasoning and intuitive reasoning.  IN the read world, on a day to day basis, people are paying for a "design approach" to problem solving, mostly because of abductive thinking (ie intuitive reasoning).  
One of the first lessons I learned in "User interface design class" in grad school was that even in simple simulations there was massive complexity.  We compared mouse vs keyboard speed, and it was utterly impossible to decide which one was faster.  It entirely depended on the task definition and small adjustments created various permutations that resulted in different answers to which was faster.  I think that was the point, that analysis runs its course pretty fast as the only vector when thinking about UIs. 
User interfaces are designed into a "massive problem space" which includes the idea being communicated, the visual creation depicting the idea, the mind of the viewer, and the interaction dimension.  A designer works through these spaces using a combination of intuitive thinking and analysis. 
What about pure analysis?  What might that look like? People may say that "simulation" is a means of exploring a problem purely analytically.  Suppose we could program a computer simulation to create UIs for corporate websites.  The computer would take in an information hierarchy, and then use a method to represent it in a UI (with buttons and interactions), and it could then run experiments to create various UI permutations and test them...on the surface this would seem like an analytical approach.   Create output and test.   However, it would not be, because someone programmed the computer to do this in a certain way, and the method they chose was biased and specific out of a suite of infinite possibilities.   
I think this conversation is nuanced since obviously we cannot say that analysis plays no part in design, it may play the greater part even at times.  But what is different about these things we do...?   
There is no way out.  Abductive reasoning defines this creative activity.   Thats what people mostly pay for to have designers solve problems.  Now with that being the case, it is hard to pin this down as a "method" mostly because we usually think of a method as a repeatable and sequenced approach ("the 12 step method" etc).  If the creation of a "new solution"/"new inference" (vs deduction/induction) is what we are doing, there is no specific "method" for doing this.   So I agree, that "problem-solving approach" may be a better phrasing.
On Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 11:02 AM, Jared M. Spool <jspool@uie.com> wrote:

Not to drive us deeper into the world of semantics, but I'm really having trouble with the words 'technique' and 'method'.

Broiling, Roasting, and Frying are all Cooking 'methods'. Cooking is not a method. It's the opposite of not cooking, but I wouldn't call it a 'method'.

I can't get my head around the idea that 'design' is a problem-solving method. At best, it's a problem-solving approach, if you somehow think that simulation or analysis aren't somehow associated with design.

(And I don't completly by the design-is-distinguished-by-abductive-reasoning argument either. There's good design that can come from non-abductive reasoning techniques. Not everything is gut.)

So, I'm not drinking the Kool-aid here. Or I'm not as smart as y'all. (Probably the latter is more correct.)

(((Please leave all conten
6 Jul 2010 - 6:05pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Abductive = gut? hmm? never equated it that way. Abductive reasoning does have an approach of validation to it.
And I wasn't saying that was its ONLY distinguishing element. It is more about the combination of all the pieces in the "design thinking" tool kit, but oft we forget this one, which can be quite binding. The others do include observation and research we in my mind feed the gut pretty darn well.

I think I'm against the notion that all creativity that is applied in purpose is "design" (vs. art as unapplied, which isn't even true either).

-- dave

Syndicate content Get the feed