The problem with ingrained patterns of thinking
As humans, we naturally develop patterns of thinking based on repetitive tasks and commonly assessed knowledge. This is useful because it allows us to quickly apply the same actions or learned responses to the same or similar situations or problems.
What are schemas?
These patterns of thinking are often called schemas. A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps us organise and interpret information. They can be useful because they let us take shortcuts when interpreting the massive amount of information in our environment. For example, we have schema for horses. We know they are large, have four legs, hair and a tail. When environmental stimuli (i.e. a horse in a paddock) match this schema, this pattern of thought is brought to mind and we know we are looking at a horse.
The trouble with schemas
But schema can also be troublesome. Because they are generated automatically, we make assumptions (using the horse schema, we assume it’s a horse, but it could be a donkey). Schemas can prevent us from seeing a situation or problem in a new way that would allow us to develop a new problem-solving strategy. In life – and in our work – this can cause us to blindly try to solve problems without questioning or further study.
Using Design Thinking
When we use a Design Thinking approach, we seek to challenge assumptions and redefine problems in an attempt to find or develop alternative solutions or strategies that may not be obvious with our initial understanding. For this reason, Design Thinking is often referred to as ‘outside the box’ thinking.