Could design thinking unlock Washington's gridlock?

(Photo by Flickr user Ron Cogswell) It is nearly impossible for Congress to become less popular, with progress on policy difficult-to-impossible. Just ask members of Congress.

Oh, wait, Esquire's Mark Warren did that. Sadly, it seems members are about as fed up with congressional gridlock as the people they are charged with serving. Now, what if design thinking were applied to this particularly thorny set of challenges? Does capitalist democracy need design thinking?

That's what IDEO's Tim Brown and the University of Toronto's Roger Martin tackled in a conversation moderated by IDEO Editorial Director Shoshana Berger. Tim is IDEO'S CEO and President, while Roger is the Academic Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. An excerpt of the conversation was posted by the Harvard Business Review earlier today.

At one point, when asked about the role design thinking could play in assessing the infrastructure of the democratic capitalism system, Tim replied:

"The underlying pieces of infrastructure — the education system, the health system, the way we design and build our cities, and even our financial system — rarely get looked at from a design perspective. What happens if you radically redesign this system, or what happens if we radically evolve this system over time in order to meet some purpose that we’re clear about and in order to meet the needs of the participants in this system in a better way than we’ve being doing it?

These are design problems. We need to use the techniques and methodologies of design to bring hypotheses and proposals out into the world much more rapidly and try them out and evolve them in real life, rather than spending months, years, or even decades writing hypothetical reports in policy think tanks where they doesn’t actually have much of an impact in the end. We also need the skills of storytelling that come along with design to helps describe new possibilities in ways that can create some action."

As I mentioned, the rest of the conversation is available via the Harvard Business Review and the full transcript is available via The Martin Prosperity Institute. What do you think? What (if any) role can or should design thinking play in bringing an end to Washington gridlock, and reviving the democratic capitalism system?

(Source: Harvard Business Review)