Inventing the Future with Structured Planning
Systems Design Methodology for Software Products
Version 2.1, June 6, 1995
5. DESIGN METHODOLOGY
5.1 Left Brain, Right Brain and Whole Brain Methods
Traditionally, design methods in the engineering disciplines tend to be
"left brain", focusing on analytic approaches to problem solving, many
invented for the defense and aerospace industry in the 50s and beyond.
On the other hand, the design methods in architectural, industrial,
graphic and environmental design tend to be "right brain", focusing on
conceptualization, synthesis and aesthetics, owing to their historical
ties to the arts.
Structured Planning provides a framework for all -- a "whole brain"
Encompassing all theories of creative problem solving, the
science of design methodology offers a holistic view where both
orientations are equally valid, and neither is more "creative" than the
other. A complete design process takes advantage of both where
appropriate: left brain approaches for analysis, right brain approaches
for synthesis. More importantly, a technique like Structured Planning
provides a framework for all - a "whole brain" approach.
5.1.1 Glass Box Theories: Design as Information Processing
Glass box theories are left brain. These view design as a matter of
complex information processing and thus tend to foster rational methods
and tools whose strengths are in problem identification and analysis.
(Most computer companies are engineering driven. Hence, much of the
data bearing on designing insights are gathered and presented using
left brain problem solving tools.)
Glass box methods and tools include:
Benchmarking (competitive and functional)
Design of Experiments
Force Field Analysis
Matrix Data Analysis
Quality Functional Deployment
5.1.2 Black Box Theories: Design as Magic
Black box theories are right brain. These hold that the creative
process is inexplicable, like magic: we know it works but we do not
know how. Although psychologists have tried to explain it, much of it
is beyond our conscious control. While we can't specify a procedure
for the "eureka" experience, we can employ techniques that foster
lateral thinking and intuitive ideation. The strengths of these
techniques are in solution generation and synthesis.
Black box methods and tools include:
Bionics (modeling after structure/function relationships in nature)
Brainstorming (creating the right mind "set" and "setting")
Delphi Technique (systematic use of expert opinion)
Pareto Voting (group process for the "80/20 rule")
Synectics (use of analogies)
Affinity Diagramming (intuitive clustering)
5.1.3 Design as a Self-organizing System
A synthesis of these two seemingly opposed orientations holds that the
design process is a self-organizing system. The design process in fact
cycles between left and right brain approaches to creative problem
solving; you do whatever is appropriate and works, but you do it in a
structured way. You organize information from the analysis of the
design problem so as to maximize the effectiveness of solution
Structured Planning ... is a metaplanning activity where the design
process itself is designed.
Structured Planning is a way to accomplish that sort of
self-organization in a design project. It is a metaplanning activity
where the design process itself is designed. Moreover, it is grounded
in an a paradigm of functional aesthetics that is in turn based on a
profound understanding of morphology. Structured Planning is thus
perfectly suited to strategic design and breakthrough concepts.
5.2 Participatory Design Methods
Pioneered by social engineers for projects like community planning, the
importance of small interdisciplinary teams that include the eventual
users of the design has become clear. In the software industry, the
design process should support interdisciplinary participation. It
should also include input from all the users, including not only those
we normally think of as customers (end users, ISVs, OEMs, VEUs, and
development partners), but also those responsible for building,
integrating, bundling, selling, and supporting the products.
Structured Planning provides a framework for this sort of participation
in the design research and analysis phase of a project.
5.3 Systems Generating Systems
At its highest level of sophistication a good design process would be a
system that generates systems. It would not be geared to simply
inventing a series of disjoint individual products. Instead it would
be geared to generating a family of products that evolve over time: a
product stream of open systems solutions that adapt to changing needs
The Structured Planning process supports this sort of evolution. As
described below, it can feed into an evolving design language that
serves as corporate memory for product design criteria. This is the
sort of methodology required by a software product design framework.