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The Design Thinking Paradox by Mr. Ron Leung
26 May 2019

Since “Design Thinking” has been put under the limelight by the Business Management and of course the Design sectors, the topic has become a hip issue in the business world as much as in the public administration field. Loads of people from various backgrounds are either herding to acquire or to tap into the coaching market of offering Design Thinking programmes. The learners comprise from managing executives to startup entrepreneurs, from NGO founders to government officials and so forth. As a design practitioner, I certainly love to see design mentality and design value are being increasingly recognised and embraced by the vast public: the more the society can adopt design as a methodology to hunt and resolve problems in a sensible manner, the more reasonable, intelligent and human the community would become, and ultimately the community would become a happier place to live in.


However, among the materials and contents of those programmes I have looked into, many of them were either formatted like jargonized doctrine or a ritual out of formalism. Seldom of them showed strong evidence to convenience me that they did abide by the core value of Design Thinking – User-centricity.


The ultimate purpose of Design Thinking training is to let learners pick up the mentality as well as the methodology (the skill set) with which they can apply to tackle and solve the problem they encounter in business and even in daily life. To attain such, the contents and formats of the training programme itself have to be as down to earth and “learner-centric” as possible. And the  program contents should also be customised to cope with the particular needs of learners from their specific background type at much earlier stage.


I don’t see the advantage of showing the double diamond diagram and tons of wiz-kid jargons in lecture or sticking Post-it labels all over the place in brain-storming session if they are creating deterring barriers to intimidate learners instead of conducting to them the knowledge.


After all, the fundamental nature of Design Thinking is only common sense. We don’t need to teach people common sense; we just teach people the way to be free from bewilderments and put their track back to common sense when encountering complex problems. In Hong Kong, 98% among all business units are SME. Many of the business owners and top managements may not have very high academic qualifications, but that doesn’t mean Design Thinking has little to do with them. What they need is a more friendly way to obtain the messages according to their reality in their language.


Besides empathy, critical thoughts is undoubtedly another core element in Design Thinking.  Isn’t it totally ridiculous to advocate user-centricity without being user-centric at the first place?  In same principle, isn’t it necessary for us to rethink about how should the knowledge of Design Thinking be conducted?


Credits to :

Mr. Ron Leung

  • The Former President of Hong Kong Designers’ Association,
  • The Founder and Creative Director of L.I.M. Design Work