Much good engineering and design is wasted by solving the wrong problems. Too often, each individual does a great job of optimizing their component, only to have the product as a whole perform poorly. This is especially true in sustainability. This new design methodology, developed for Autodesk, combines whole-systems thinking and life-cycle thinking in a unified process that not only maximizes sustainability, but also acts as an innovation tool.
Whole-Systems thinking is a way of expanding your design process to think about how the entire system works as a whole--not just the particular component you're in charge of. It's an organic, interconnected, right-brain thought process that helps you start from a clean slate when defining the problem, and helps you be more creative in ideating solutions.
Life-cycle thinking--in particular, the analytical tool of life-cycle assessment--is a way of measuring the environmental impacts of a product through its whole life cycle. It's a quantitative, detailed, left-brain thought process which helps you set priorities and choose between design options.
Combining these two ways of thinking brings together creative and analytical approaches for maximal design performance, in a simple, stremlined process. See the video in the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop for a brief summary of the method.