Thursday, April 9, 2009

Design Thinking and Government

I'm very intrigued by the potential that design thinking has to offer government. Of course, nothing has more inertia than government and it is inherently ultra political, so altering the way government works is extremely challenging. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful, and stuff like this from IDEO's Tim Brown is encouraging:

What if design was used to test some of the rules our government leaders are proposing? Could we go through some experimental cycles using design and prototyping as a tool before final decisions are made about what rules to adopt? Might this help us avoid our tendency to create new rules and then walk away, under the assumption that our finance, health and global energy systems will now behave in the way we want them to?

This is of course an excellent idea. In the private sector, when systems are created they are rigorously tested. Good system designers/engineers understand that a critical part of any system are the humans it affects and relies on, so good system design incorporates a lot of use testing and design iteration to ensure that the system will behave in real life and its designers intend. Almost every government action is a case study in the law of unintended consequences, so it stands to reason that government-designed systems more often than not do not behave in real life the way their designers intended. Ergo, government needs to start using design thinking!

Image from here.

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