Book Club: Design Thinking Resources

Every Thursday, I’ll be briefly reviewing a book that I find to be interesting, engaging, and valuable for Agile Faculty. Because the Agile Faculty mindset values exploration, curiosity, and multidisciplinarity, these resources will come from a variety of different areas that speak to a wide range of interests, including higher education, faculty development, Agile and Scrum, design thinking and creativity studies, and social innovation. And I’ll throw in a little bonus review of a piece of fiction or non-fiction I’m reading just for fun.

For February, Book Club will focus on design thinking resources, texts that have inspired me to think about innovation, process, empathy, and curiosity in new ways. Why design thinking? About three years ago, some colleagues and I who were interested in finding better ways to use Scrum in the higher ed classroom got together, and in a spit-balling brainstorming session, we wondered what truly Agile higher education would look like – iterations instead of semesters, projects instead of courses, action instead of seat time, feedback loops instead of grades. Fast forward and we are currently running the second pilot semester of the Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation program that was born of those discussions.

I see a lot of similarities between design thinking and Scrum which I’ll cover in a blog post next week. Here I’d just like to share some books you can explore if you are interested in learning more about design thinking and the mindsets that ground this type of thinking.

Design thinking is essentially a distillation of the development process designers, such as graphic and industrial designers and architects, employ when thinking through projects. If you’ve heard of design thinking ambiently, odds are you found or heard about the work of the Stanford, IDEO, Tim Brown, and David and Tom Kelley. Some of their books are listed below, but this is just one version of the process – although I have studied the work, it is one flavor of the Kool-Aid and is often framed in great stories (but little empirical evidence to support the sweeping claims. If fact, much of the design literature shows designers preferring the language of “designerly thinking” and see the Stanford/IDEO version a bastardization of their sacred process (I’ll leave it to you to unpack that!).

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