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Paris vs New YorkSometime ago I came across the above picture [1], and it instantly stuck me as a superb metaphor for ‘design thinking vs. traditional project management approaches’. Let me explain what I mean.

Recently, I spent 6 months in Paris. When you are walking on the streets of Paris and trying to go somewhere, you often have only a sense of orientation. You may even lose that sense of orientation off and on. But you keep moving. And then you suddenly get a glimpse of a famous monument or the Seine or a well-known boulevard or something you are familiar with. Once again, you become aware of which direction you should be heading. “3 blocks down South and 2 blocks East”, doesn’t work for Paris!

I think what you experience on the streets of Paris holds true for design thinking too. When you are working on a complex problem, you only have a vague sense of direction. But you keep moving and keep trying out things. At times, you come to those vexing roundabouts of several possibilities. On those occasions, you use your best judgement to pursue a certain possibility. You are also faced with incomplete information and/or ambiguous data, but you once again use your best judgement to move ahead. Sometimes you can come up with an explanation for, why you did what you did. On other occasions, you just have to say, what Blaise Pascal said – “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing!

Le Mont St. MichelIf you are from outside, it takes some time to get used to the ways of Paris and of design thinking. But once you get used to them, you start to fall in love with them. There is something charming about digressing to that unusually narrow cobbled stone street, and discovering a cosy brasserie. There is something charming about letting your mind loaf a bit, and then discovering a pattern in your research data or ending up with an out-of-box idea. There is something special about spontaneity.

Ernest Hemingway says in his memoir – “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”. Shall we say, something similar holds true for design thinking as well? Once you have experienced design thinking, it becomes your second nature and you carry it to whatever you do…for the rest of your life.

What do you find beautiful about design thinking? Think about it as you listen to the playlist, flâneur parisien.

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[1] Picture credit: ‘Paris versus New York: The Complete Series of Two Cities’, by Vahram Muratyan