Design Thinking versus Excel?

To avoid becoming too narrow-minded, it is good to read or learn things outside of your own business world from time to time.
Flanders District of Creativity ( supports, promotes and connects the Flemish creative industries (I cannot claim being part of that sector … ). I sometimes follow a course organised by them, and it is always of good quality (and for an interesting price). So when I read last month that they published their first yearly magazine ‘Between the lines’ (Dutch only) I didn’t hesitate to order it.

Not all articles are relevant/interesting for me. But some nice things I noted are amongst others :

  • The concept of Prosthetic Knowledge [Bart De Waele] : “Prosthetic knowledge is knowledge that we do not have ‘ourselves’, but that we can freely address through technology. For example, if I were to ask you if you know the time, in most cases you would say yes without thinking – even if you don’t have that knowledge in your body, there are probably enough clocks nearby”. This concept is not new, but it is the first time I heard the term. The article deals mainly with how this influences our buying process, how businesses have to deal with that, and about the impact of augmented reality in the near future on this aspect.
  • Seven rules to make your game more profitable – and ofcourse I checked if data were part of this (and yes, it is). [Oscar Clark]
  • Technologies of the future, and if they are applicable in the fashion industry

The most interesting article for me was the one about “Design Thinking” [by Koen Elsen].

Image by FlandersDC

Design thinking is defined here as “Thinking like a designer is the essence of design thinking. For that you have to be either a designer, or you have to know the way designers work through and through. Design thinking has existed for centuries, but it is only recently that a term has been stuck on. An important aspect of design thinking is knowing what to do for whom. That is a very empathic event. Empathy means thinking from the point of view of the user, customer or stakeholder. It is not about your personal point of view”. A second pillar of design thinking is the hands-on approach: test assumptions or insights immediately. You don’t need large investments to try things out.

But now the most interesting part, about Excel and emotion :
“There is an aspect in design thinking that is difficult for industry and the economy to deal with, and that is emotion. One of the biggest dangers in a creative environment is Excel. Everything has to be expressed in figures. Dealing with emotion, one of the core values of a modern company, is not something obvious in an economic environment”.

I agree in Excel being a potential danger in many businesses, but for different reasons. I don’t believe that the use of data as such is a threat for emotion. Of course, there should be a good mix between gut feeling, data and emotion. My problem with Excel is that the program (which ‘an sich’ is wonderful) is misused to create islands of processed and sometimes contradictory data, worst case by so-called (or self proclaimed) Excel-gurus. With the resulting loss of faith in data.
Hence my advise – use professional BI tools instead (or on top of) Excel, increase the general data literacy in your company and work towards a single version of the truth.
That way, data will not be a threat for emotion but a nice complement.

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