Obama’s Design Thinking

(Editor’s Note: a meme like “design thinking” hasn’t really been beaten to death until it’s been associated with and used to explain popular culture :-)

There were two lines in President Obama’s inaugural speech that caught my attention, signaling him as someone who can think beyond the prevailing frames and design new situations. In both cases he rejects the binary framing that so often colors U.S. politics (think Democrat/Republican, Liberal/Conservative…) They are:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Right, we can have both. They are simply design constraints, and if you decide to obey both constraints you are forced to generate new options.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Obama will probably cut hard in some places that are wasteful, pleasing fiscal conservatives, and spend heavily in others to stimulate the economy, pleasing social progressives. Here he makes it clear he does not fall neatly into either camp, looking instead to rational measures of progress.


  1. Well said. I was thinking the same thing, and even had a similar post in draft form already. Those two quotes also caught my attention as examples of design thinking. The second a direct example of human centered design. Its not about technology (big gov. or small gov.) being the driver, but are we accomplishing the goal or meeting the perceived need. nice.

  2. Obama in a politician whose words are written by others to feed the illusions of those who seek others to explain their purpose. A designer should tremble at the words of a politician given that they are the antithesis of the profession.

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