An approach that promised to democratise design may have done the opposite.
In recent years, for a number of reasons, the shine of design thinking has been wearing off. Critics have argued that its short-term focus on novel and naive ideas has resulted in unrealistic and ungrounded recommendations. And they have maintained that by centering designers—mainly practitioners of corporate design within agencies—it has reinforced existing inequities rather than challenging them.
Years in, “innovation theater” — checking a series of boxes without implementing meaningful shifts—had become endemic in corporate settings, while a number of social-impact initiatives highlighted in case studies struggled to get beyond pilot projects.
Meanwhile, the #MeToo and BLM movements, along with the political turmoil of the Trump administration, have demonstrated that many big problems are rooted in centuries of dark history, too deeply entrenched to be obliterated with a touch of design thinking’s magic wand.
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