At some point this week, I read a post by Warren Berger, author of Glimmer, on The Four Phases of Design Thinking. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to (good) enterprise architect thinking, especially phase 1, Question:
“If you spend any time around designers, you quickly discover this about them: They ask, and raise, a lot of questions. Often this is the starting point in the design process, and it can have a profound influence on everything that follows. Many of the designers I studied, from Bruce Mau to Richard Saul Wurman to Paula Scher, talked about the importance of asking "stupid questions"–the ones that challenge the existing realities and assumptions in a given industry or sector. The persistent tendency of designers to do this is captured in the joke designers tell about themselves. How many designers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?”
While I chuckled at the light bulb joke, it was the next section that really caught my attention. Back in my corporate chief architect days, I used to say to my team and peers in the leadership group that it was my job to ask questions. Here’s why:
“In a business setting, asking basic "why" questions can make the questioner seem naïve while putting others on the defensive (as in, "What do you mean ‘Why are we doing it this way?’ We’ve been doing it this way for 22 years!"). But by encouraging people to step back and reconsider old problems or entrenched practices, the designer can begin to re-frame the challenge at hand — which can then steer thinking in new directions. For business in today’s volatile marketplace, the ability to question and rethink basic fundamentals — What business are we really in? What do today’s consumers actually need or expect from us? — has never been more important.””
Another synergy with the enterprise architect role is “Connect”:
“Designers, I discovered, have a knack for synthesizing–for taking existing elements or ideas and mashing them together in fresh new ways. This can be a valuable shortcut to innovation because it means you don’t necessarily have to invent from scratch. By coming up with "smart recombinations" (to use a term coined by the designer John Thackara), Apple has produced some of its most successful hybrid products; and Nike smartly combining a running shoe with an iPod to produce its groundbreaking Nike Plus line (which enables users to program their runs). It isn’t easy to come up with these great combos. Designers know that you must "think laterally" — searching far and wide for ideas and influences — and must also be willing to try connecting ideas that might not seem to go together. This is a way of thinking that can also be embraced by non-designers.”
So, my enterprise architect friends, I ask you this: Are you asking enough of the right questions to discover (and deliver) “smart recombinations”?
Read the full post.