Design Thinking & Librarians

There has been an increasing amount of discussion about design thinking and the law. However, there seems to be a dearth of parallel conversation in the law library circles.* We have already proven ourselves resources for legal technology initiatives. It is vital that we also become knowledge leaders in this related area. 

Design thinking is a problem-solving method that purports to encourage innovation. There are several formulations of design thinking, though IDEO’s model is one of the most well-known. IBM has developed their own model of enterprise design thinking and performed one of the few studies of its impact on their bottom line.

Reading the success noted in IBM’s report, it is easy to see how partners might be swayed to adopt this method to improve law firm business. However, design thinking is not a cure-all or a must-have. Not all things need to be ‘designed.’ 

Knowing IDEOs six-step process will not guarantee innovative results. Poorly implemented, design thinking stymies progress and preserves the status quo. In fact, I’ve argued that legal technology companies need to steer clear of human-centered design since it fails to consider the impact.

It is for this reason our profession needs to be informed about design thinking. As increasing numbers of firms look to design thinking to help innovate legal services, we can be guides. We can ensure that lawyers are not the only ones at the table. We can help properly frame the questions, include diverse stakeholders and perspectives, and ensure that potential adverse impacts are considered. 

If you’d like to get an introduction into design thinking and how it’s used, IBM offers the first stage in their Enterprise Design Thinking certification for free. This covers IBM particular design thinking process but is still a good start. For an alternative to human-centered design read The Intergalactic Design Guide, which discusses social design thinking.**

*There was a session at the Innovation Lab at the 2016 annual conference, but not much else. 
**I’ll post a review of the book in a future post. 

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