It was pretty simple really... this whole design thinking thing. Then, rather unpredictably (at least to me), a whole bunch of people jumped on board that didn't have a clue... trying to use this 'thing' to move their careers forward.
But what is it really?
It's good to start out any academic conversation by establishing some definitions. Design thinking is super simple. There are a bunch of methods that help designers process, synthesize, and produce. These methods are pretty different and sometimes even unique to a design studio and a good designer's processes. Guys like Bruce Nussbaum and Roger Martin came upon some of these, thought they had value, and they started talking and writing about them. Being high profile business experts, people listened. Design thinking is simply taking these methods and applying them to non-design situations... you know, business, engineering etc.
But here's the thing... these are APPLIED methods. Yes, if you aren't applying any of these methods or processes you can't... let me repeat CAN'T be an expert on them. Further, you aren't going to be able to talk as an expert, write as an expert, or improve them as an expert might if you're not utilizing them.
So, not to pass an opportunity by... the theorists and the career minded MBA's and even a few articulate engineers jump on board... (we gotta get into this design stuff guys... it's the next big thing!) and the whole thing moves in different directions with the loudest voices working to shift the definition and make it their own 'thing'.
The conversations is now so watered down, misdirected, and over intellectualized that it has no focus and really no meaning. Is design thinking dead? No, but the movement, and the most apparent conversations are. Design methods will still evolve, will stay relevant, and continue to be smartly applied in other areas... but I very much doubt those loud voices you hear will be part of any meaningful utilization. Why? Because they aren't designers and they aren't applying these methods to real work.