Design thinking is essential for effective solutions

Design thinking is essential for effective solutions is Patrick (Pat) Lamb’s first post on Dialogue. In the last 20+ years we have witnessed Pat’s NewLaw journey, most recently integrating his law firm into Elevate.

Coyle began his response by reversing the question to “how is design thinking related to innovation?” I thought that was insightful, but my appreciation for his answer ended there. Coyle defined design thinking as “a process and a mindset used to solve complex problems in unique and innovative ways.” In other words, uniqueness and innovation are inherent attributes of design thinking. I see design thinking a bit differently.

I saw something online the other day that attempted to answer the question, “how is innovation related to design thinking?” The response, written by John Coyle, a former Olympic speed skater and CEO at Speaking Design Thinking, caught my eye.

Design thinking is designing from the user’s point of view.  Software, thoughtfully designed, will be easy for the user to employ. It will be intuitive, and it will accomplish the user’s purposed.  That hardly qualifies as innovative. But it is good design thinking.  The focus on simplicity will, in some measure of circumstances, yield an innovative approach. That is how certain processes are modified (design question–isn’t there an easier way to do x?) or modified (design question–isn’t there a way to automate x?).  But great design frequently comes from total redesign in a way that eliminates x–(design question–why is x necessary and what can do about eliminating the need for x?).

Solutions thinking, which combines design thinking and problem solving–focusing on eliminating the problem entirely or drastically shrinking its footprint. This is the “next big thing” that clients are now starting to demand. Those that are not demanding it now will soon do so.  The Solutions Design process–the “Next” in ElevateNext–is premised on the belief that innovation for the sake of innovation isn’t what law departments seek.  They seek innovation that is purpose-driven. So my answer to the question of how innovation is related to design thinking is that innovation is a byproduct of effective Solutions Design, which inherently involves Design Thinking.


Patrick Lamb is a partner with ElevateNext Law, a Chicago law firm aligned with Elevate Services, one of the world’s leading law companies.

Widely honoured in his profession, Patrick is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and serves on the College’s Board of Trustees. Pat has authored two books on alternative fees, including the highly acclaimed Alternative Fees for Litigators and their Clients, ABA Press (2014).

Design thinking is essential for effective solutions was first published on Pat Lamb’s blog In Search of Perfect Client Service on September 18, 2018 as Design thinking is essential to providing effective solutions.  

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