When do we use Kata or Design Thinking? 

There is no right or wrong answer to which methodology is best used to solve a problem.  They are both an iterative problem solving methodology.  At Ottawa County, we are striving to create a program that will enhance, leverage, and support creativity and collaboration. We will achieve this through building a culture of scientific thinking keeping the customer in mind.

Kata is the scientific methodology to solve a specific, predetermined challenge.  With Kata, it begins with a challenge, current condition, and target conditions (hypothesis) that are validated by performing data driven experiments (PDCA cycles).  The innovation occurs when you have obstacles that test your threshold of knowledge. The obstacles lead to experiments and potential solutions.  The starter Kata utilizes the worksheets and storyboards, but eventually it becomes the normal way of thinking and less reliant on the worksheets.

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to define and solve challenges.  It focuses on empathy where we try to get a deep understanding of the person’s needs and motivation.  Design Thinking begins with the question “How might we….?”.   Design thinking is not a hard, fast rule, but rather a guide.  The process may seem very daunting, but it can be used on all sizes of projects. Not all 5 phases of the Ottawa County design thinking process are required. Sometimes you can solve your question/issue by using one or two tools in the playbook.

In summary, Kata and Design Thinking are both problem-solving frameworks or methodologies that utilize experimenting.  The Kata process uses data and the scientific method that breaks the challenge down into smaller achievable goals to solve a problem.  The Design Thinking method relies on a user centered or citizen centered approach with empathy at the core of the solution.

County groups have experimented with using Design Thinking to find a potential solution and then implemented it with Kata.  Doing the Design Thinking first, allowed the team to really focus on the understanding of the problem with the user at the heart of the issue.  Once a potential solution was developed, it was implemented using the Kata methodology by experimenting.

All projects should focus on the customer or end user whether you use Kata or Design Thinking.