How might we embed design thinking into the arts?

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Image © Dana Mitroff Silvers

We find the enthusiasm with which Design Thinking has been embraced in all kinds of communities wonderful and amazing. Most recently we came across an article from the Design Thinking for Museums Blog written by Dana Mitroff Silvers. In her article she explores how Design Thinking was implemented at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS)  – find the essence of that article below (as well as a link to the original posting).

How might we embed design thinking into a museum? This is the question the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) has been exploring over the past six months through extensive design thinking workshops. The DMNS aims at holding it’s Museum leadership in ensuring that the museum is relevant, accessible, and welcoming to visitors of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. In response, the Museum’s senior leadership has kicked off a new, cross-museum initiative to investigate and explore ways to build deeper and more meaningful connections with the local community. The entire staff of the DMNS went on a journey of intensive, immersive, multi-day workshops in which they tackled specific and timely challenges, such as: “How might we better connect the Denver community with nature?”

The Museum staff recognized early on when starting to experiment with design thinking that there were staff who viewed some of the open-ended, exploratory activities such as uncensored brainstorming and low-resolution prototyping as “wasteful.” But in order for the Museum’s community-focused initiative to succeed, they needed to give staff the permission to try things out and fail.

One of the Museum’s big learnings has been around how important it is to really listen to the community. To think through the annual pass program, staff went out into the community and did interviews and observations. That’s how they recognised that pricing was not the actual problem. For example Maria, a mother of a low income family of five explained; “Even if the Museum is free, I wouldn’t come if there is not something there for her entire family.”

Amanda Bennett, Director of Marketing and Communications at DMNS, explains the importance of Design Thinking for the DMNS as follows;

”Had we not used the design thinking process, we would have grossly misjudged what local community members needed. We would have done what we thought was appropriate for this program—and it would have failed.”

Internal surveys conducted by the Museum have indicated that the design thinking process has helped staff to connect with their natural ability to generate new ideas and has given them the courage to experiment, be “wasteful,” and take risks.

Original article published on the 4th of March 2015, at Design Thinking for Museums, by Dana Mitroff Silvers.

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