Project Management

Design Thinking + Agile

Bob Tarne, PMP, CSM is an accomplished consultant, speaker, and writer. He is currently an Engagement Manager with IBM as well as an active volunteer with the Project Management Institute. His blog can be found at

Agile and Design Thinking, two leading trends in project management, follow an iterative approach and emphasize the importance of the team. But it is their differences that offer great potential when combined as complementary tools for complex problem-solving, customer interaction and value delivery.

In the recent ProjectsAtWork article “Top PM Trends in 2016” (Feb. 2016), two trends in particular — the Permanency of Agile and the Need for Design Thinkers — provide an opportunity for project teams and leaders if they understand their benefits and differences. While neither Agile nor Design Thinking are new concepts, they can be combined to form an effective way to solve complex problems.

Design Thinking is often associated with IDEO, a design and consulting firm formed in 1991. One of its founders, Stanford professor David Kelly, helped develop and teach some of the initial design thinking concepts, which were popularized in the book Change by Design by Tim Brown, the current CEO of IDEO.

In its basic form, design thinking is a problem-solving approach. It differs from analytical thinking in that it doesn’t attempt to fully define the solution up front. Instead, the process begins with a goal of achieving a better future state, without trying to define exactly what that future state looks like. That doesn't mean the end goal isn’t to bring a new product to market. Design…

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"One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity there ain't nothing can beat teamwork."

- Mark Twain