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The Design Apprentices

Somehow, I've gotten sucked into watching the third season of The Apprentice. For those of you lucky enough to not know of this show, it goes something like this: 18 people vie Survivor-style to become the head of one of Donald Trump's companies. They do so by competing in business tasks, usually creating a new store or product, like a new pizza for Dominos.

Amazingly, although these are supposed to be some of today's smartest and most savvy business minds (although some of them clearly weren't chosen for brains alone), when they get these tasks, it's amazing that, although most of the tasks are design or design-esque (marketing campaigns), how little design thinking the wannabe Donalds actually do. Last week's episode, when the teams had to design a line of clothing, was the first time ever on the show that I ever saw anyone actually talk to a potential customer! And this only after the urging of The Donald to do so (although Trump called it "market research").

Naturally, the team that bothered spending a few hours asking teens (the target customers) what they wanted won the challenge. Because (duh!) they actually knew what the teens wanted (or said they wanted). It's eye-opening, really, how little these basic (to designers anyway) things are taught and practiced in the business world. Half the time, the contestants don't bother meeting with the company and finding out anything about it, its brand, its competitors, etc. (Granted, The Apprentice is probably to business what the L.A. Lakers are to lakes.)

This proves the Dick Buchanan's dictum that the main thing designers bring to the table is a dose of common sense. And I suppose in theory, business people not thinking like designers is good for designers, since we're often called in to be the problem solvers and product makers. But until there's a designer in every business (ie never) it's probably bad for everyone else.

Originally posted at Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)

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Thinking About Design Thinking
Probably the phrase in design circles I'm hearing the most these days is "design thinking." As in, "We need to bring some design thinking to this project." Or "What sets designers apart is design thinking." Interestingly, I haven't seen much about what "design thinking" really is though. ...

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