The twin faces of public sector design
Design thinking has become a popular approach for governments around the world seeking to address complex governance challenges. It offers novel techniques and speaks to broader questions of who governs, how they govern, and the limits of rational instrumentalism in policy making. Juxtaposing design thinking with an older tradition of policy design, this article offers the first critical analysis of the application of design thinking to policy making. It argues that design thinking does not sufficiently account for the political and organizational contexts of policy work. Design thinking also errs in universally privileging one particular policy style over others, and fails to account for the reality of policy mixes. Despite these deficiencies, it is argued that design thinking can inform and enrich governance by helping policy designers produce more adaptable designs, better appreciate the behavioral dynamics of public sector design, and leverage networked approaches to social problem solving.