Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

7. Simon’s Design Thinking Cycle

The idea of design as an approach to thinking and doing in the sciences was first championed by economist, management theorist, computer scientist, and complex systems polymath Herbert Simon in The Sciences of the Artificial (1969). Simon and later design scholars including Robert McKim, Peter Rowe, Rolf Faste, David Kelley, and Richard Buchanan championed design as creative, solution-based thinking, applicable in all human activities. Most of these scholars approached design from the decision cycle perspective. Simon’s seven step design thinking cycle, quoted here from Wikipedia, remains the classic set of introductory guidelines to good design process:

1. Define

Decide what issue you are trying to resolve

Agree on who the audience is

Prioritize this project in terms of urgency

Determine what will make this project successful

Establish a glossary of terms

2. Research

Review the history of the issue; note existing obstacles

Collect examples of other attempts to solve the issue

Note the project supporters, investors, and critics

Talk to your end-users for fruitful ideas for later design

Take into account thought leaders’ opinions

3. Ideate

Identify the needs and motivations of your end-users

Gen. as many ideas as possible to serve identified needs

Record your brainstorming sessions

Do not judge or debate ideas

During brainstorming, have one conversation at a time

4. Prototype

Combine, expand, and refine ideas

Create multiple drafts

Get feedback from a diverse group, include end users

Present a selection of ideas to the client

Reserve judgement and maintain neutrality

Create and present actual working prototype(s)

5. Choose

Review the objective

Set aside emotion and ownership of ideas

Avoid consensus thinking

Note: the most practical solution isn’t always the best

Select the powerful ideas

6. Implement

Make task descriptions

Plan tasks

Determine resources

Assign tasks


Deliver to client

7. Learn

Gather feedback from the consumer

Determine if the solution met its goals

Discuss what could be improved

Measure success; collect data



These steps are of course another version of the Do Loop, with Steps 1 and 2 being Learn, steps 3, 4, and 5 being See (via design and strategic decisionmaking with respect to prototypes), Step 6 being Do, and Step 7 being Review. All good foresight graduate programs should have a course on Design, as a particularly creative entryway into the skills of Adaptive Foresight. There is also currently one masters program, OCAD’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program (MDes) that blends foresight and design, for those seeing further training in this powerful approach to solving problems and creating desirable futures.

Share your Feedback

Better Wording? References? Data? Images? Quotes? Mistakes?

Thanks for helping us make the Guide the best intro to foresight on the web.