I largely think about ‘design thinking’ as being similar to ‘metacognition.’ It is the conscious notion of analyzing what you are designing, why you are thinking along those lines, what are you missing, and constantly asking why.
I find that the real promise in design thinking lies not in its potential for truly innovative solutions but in the way that it forces us to question the very assumptions on which we, as designers, are operating. As evidenced in the reading with the development of a breastfeeding prosthesis, products are influenced by AND (re)produce social discourses. Design thinking allowed an HIV-positive mother to safely breastfeed her child in public and private spheres while maintaining a social status she would have been otherwise barred from. Furthermore, this situation is unique in that it is a community of individuals working on a solution for their own community. This is not a session that took place in a massive multi-million-dollar corporation nor in a government-funded project nor in a university setting. Design thinking can be innovation reimagined through grassroots organizing, by developing products based on true need by those who know the issue best, and not for capitalism and conspicuous consumption. It is a process usable by anyone, and not just those who are privileged enough to have access to the resources or the knowledge to be an inventor or an engineer. Design thinking allows you to question the very system in which you are designing in order to generate true social change.