Marty Neumeier on “The Five Ps of Design Thinking”

Over the years, Marty Neumeier has published eight bestsellers and his ninth —SCRAMBLE — will be published in October.

There is no other business thinker I hold in higher regard. Marty’s mind reminds me of a Swiss Army knife.

For example, these are what he characterizes as “The Five Ps of Design Thinking,” thoroughly discussed in SCRAMBLE (Pages 224-233):

1. Problemizing:

Design thinking “isn’t about solving problems, but about framing them. Never accept a problem at face value. Instead, try to find out what the real problem is — the problem behind the problem — by asking a few questions such as “Is this the right problem to solve?'”

2. Pinballing

“The same way a pinball bounces off obstacles and other pinballs, ideas can bounce off obstacles and other ideas…The goal is to put options on the table that weren’t there before.” Why not a sunscreen lotion that repels mosquitoes? Why not a handle built into large containers? Mary Kay Ash once asked, “Why not add a pleasant fragrance to a leather softener lotion and sell it as skin cream to eliminate wrinkles?” You get the idea….

3. Probing

Neumeier credits Edward de Bono for having much of value to say about parallel thinking, “a technique in which the members of a brainstorming group think in the same direction at the same time. You take an idea from the pinballing stage and view it through six symbolic ‘hats’ [or modes of thinking]”: white for helpful information, red hat for evaluation based on emotions, yellow hat for positivity, black hat for caution and disagreement, and green hat for creative thinking. What about the sixth hat? Blue for the group leader who determines which “hat” or mode of thinking will guide and direct the discussion.

4. Prototyping

Prototyping is the magic that makes design thinking more powerful than traditional thinking. It adds the making step between knowing and doing. It’s the difference between deciding the future with off-the-shelf practices, and designing the future by working from first principles…Prototypes are essential for testing and learning.” Thomas Edison thought the greatest benefit of prototyping was to learning what wouldn’t work and (especially) why.

5. Proofing

“Assumption is the enemy of strategic thinking. We all make assumption about the way the world works, but assumptions can blind us to possibilities — and even reality itself…To get the most out of proofing, test two or more prototypes against each other.”

There is one other troublemaker I resume to add to this discussion: The “unknown unknown,” developed in 1955 by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1916–1995). This is what Mark Twain has in mind when suggesting, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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Marty Neumeier is an American author and speaker who writes on the topics of brand, design, innovation, and creativity. He currently serves as Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, a branding agency headquartered in San Jose, California.

To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

I urge you to pre-order SCRAMBLE now.

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