I discovered a long, fantastically written, and deep article from 2019 on Design Thinking and the story of IDEO from x in 2019. At this point, you're probably bored to death by these discussions, and the few of you still using this methodology have understood its limits and how, mostly, it fuelled everything wrong about innovation for a few years.

OK, I get it. I was on this frontline, too...

But the article is way more interesting than beating this dead horse. It circles back to a core concept I know many around us still struggle with wicked problems vs. normal ones.

(...) The paper Rittel read aloud to West’s seminar in 1967 was not primarily about design methods but design problems: problems that Rittel believed should be the purview of design, from poverty to the need for sanitary sewers. Rittel placed this class of problems into the unfolding historical context of the 1960s, when, as he wrote, “the unitary conception of ‘The American Way of Life’” was “giving way,” and when individuals were rightly questioning the power of the professional class to make decisions on their behalf.
What united these problems, Rittel said, was first that the actual problem was always indeterminate. It was hard to tell, in other words, if you had diagnosed the problem correctly, because if you dug deeper — why does this problem occur? — you could always find a more fundamental cause than the one you were addressing. These problems also didn’t have true or false answers, only better or worse solutions. They were not, indeed, like math problems. There was no definitive test of a solution, no proof. More effort might not always lead to something better.
There were other ways these problems were not like math. They had intrinsically high stakes, wrote Rittel and a colleague, Melvin M. Webber, when they published Rittel’s talk as a paper. Any solution implemented would leave “traces” that couldn’t be undone. “One cannot build a freeway to see how it works, and then easily correct it after unsatisfactory performance,” they wrote. “Large public works are effectively irreversible, and the consequences they generate have long half-lives.” The designer had no “right to be wrong,” because these problems mattered. Human lives, or the quality of human lives, were on the line.
Rittel called them “wicked problems.” They were “wicked” not because they were unethical or evil, but because they were malignant and incorrigible and hard. There did exist simple problems that didn’t rise to this level. But “now that [the] relatively easy problems have been dealt with,” the problems worth designers’ time were the wickedest ones. The hardest problems of heterogeneous social life called for designers’ exclusive focus and concentration.
For Rittel, design problems’ wickedness meant that they could never be subject to a single process of resolution. There could be no one “method.” Textbooks tended to break down, say, engineering work into “phases”: “gather information,” “synthesize information and wait for the creative leap,” et cetera. But for wicked problems, Rittel wrote, “this type of scheme does not work.” Understanding the problem required understanding its context. It wasn’t possible to gather full information before starting to formulate solutions. Nothing was linear or consistent; designers didn’t, couldn’t, think that way. If there was any describing the design process, it was as an argument. Design was a multiplicity of critical voices batting a problem around unknown terrain until it formed itself, or not, into some kind of resolution.

If anything, this article also shows how much I have still to discover and learn, as I was very proud of our decade-and-a-half-old motto, "There is no method," which, it seems, was anything but original.

As always explained, Mysteries (wicked problems) vs. Puzzles are the first step in all our innovation training.

The rest of the article, which discusses how IDEO's fast-food approach to design was both brilliant in terms of marketing and disastrous when faced with wicked problems, is absolutely worth reading, too.

It was design for a service economy: memorable, saleable, repeatable, apparently universal, and slightly vague in the details.

The full article is here:

On Design Thinking | Maggie Gram
By embracing “design thinking,” we attribute to design a kind of superior epistemology: a way of knowing, of “solving,” that is better than the old and local and blue-collar and municipal and unionized and customary ways. We bring in “design thinkers” — some of them designers by trade, many of them members of adjacent knowledge fields — to “empathize” with Kaiser hospital nurses, Gainesville city workers, church leaders, young mothers, and guerrilla fighters the world over.
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