Following a recent discussion with Daiana Zavate on the ODD Owtcomes podcast about creating and perfecting our tools, and the publication of the book The Discovery Discipline, I wanted to share some thoughts on an issue we encounter frequently in the design, product, service, innovation (you name it) spaces.

A tale of misplaced faith

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Back in 2016 when the book Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days was published and the hype around the Design Sprint rigid process started to heat up, we could then read this:

Focusing on the surface allows you to move fast and answer big questions before you commit to execution, which is why any challenge, no matter how large, can benefit from a sprint. — Jake Knapp, Sprint (p. 28).

3 years later, along those lines, the narrative grew amongst the design community and many early adopters, who called themselves Sprint Masters, were now praising the supremacy and universality of their newly discovered tool. The Design Sprint was better, faster, stronger, and could solve any problem or challenge, no matter what it was. In 2019, I published a critique to investigate many of the bold claims promoted by both the book and the nascent design sprint community.

Indeed, the problem was not the Design Sprint itself, but what people believed they could do with it: a misplaced faith in their tool.

As I explored in this 2020 article, different contexts hold different intertwined states of complexity, and therefore there is a physical impossibility for any formalised tool or process to fit this inherent ambiguity/uncertainty without a high level of autonomy of the practitioners.

Interestingly, practitioners from various horizons have developed over time tools and paradigms to help them make sense and act within their environment. By looking at them from a complexity perspective, we can observe that some practices are better fitted for certain types of contexts [...]

This helps us understand the convergent and divergent aspects of the different paradigms and ideologies. We can now draw the interrelation between the complexity of a context (system), the tools, and the paradigms needed to tackle its challenges. – Kevin Richard, Innovation By Design: A complexity-based understanding and provocation.

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