De­sign think­ing holds the key

A global sur­vey of 1,500 CEOs iden­ti­fied cre­ativ­ity as the num­ber one lead­er­ship com­pe­tency for the fu­ture.* A creative and an­a­lyt­i­cal mind can col­lab­o­rate with tal­ent from var­i­ous dis­ci­plines such as arts, en­gi­neer­ing, and so­cial sci­ences and com­bine the

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In­cor­po­rat­ing de­sign think­ing in the cur­ricu­lum can help cre­ate more imag­i­na­tive and creative lead­ers to drive an un­cer­tain and volatile fu­ture, be­lieves San­jay Dhande, Avan­tika Univer­sity.

Ed­u­ca­tion is at a cross­roads the world over, and a real trans­for­ma­tion in our ap­proach to­wards it is much needed. Ed­u­ca­tors are look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion and seek­ing a new di­rec­tion to re­vamp the ed­u­ca­tion realm.

The con­cept of de­sign think­ing is now in­flu­enc­ing ed­u­ca­tors across the globe. It is a method­ol­ogy—not nec­es­sar­ily ex­clu­sive for de­sign­ers—that helps peo­ple un­der­stand and de­velop creative ways to solve a par­tic­u­lar is­sue. This could also help stu­dents to re­al­ize the fu­ture

they can cre­ate for them­selves by tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion mul­ti­ple frame­works. With an op­ti­mistic and proac­tive ap­proach, it will al­low them to de­sign their par­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Those ca­pa­ble of ap­ply­ing de­sign think­ing can tackle any dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion with ease. They have a keen sense of ob­ser­va­tion and an an­a­lyt­i­cal mind. Once they gather rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion and gain a holis­tic per­spec­tive of the sit­u­a­tion, they then de­fine or re­de­fine the prob­lem and un­der­stand it through this def­i­ni­tion.

The next phase of ideation is crit­i­cal in de­sign think­ing. The process of ideation and ex­plo­ration of so­lu­tion space is nec­es­sary to de­velop de­sign think­ing abil­ity. There are sev­eral ways of ideation. Brain­storm­ing is one. The ‘six think­ing hat’ tech­nique of Edward de Bono is an­other. The process of slic­ing the prob­lem into smaller units and then syn­the­siz­ing the so­lu­tion from each one of them with sub­se­quent in­te­gra­tion of in­di­vid­ual so­lu­tions into a sin­gle so­lu­tion is an­other way of look­ing at ideation for a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion.

The process of ideation re­quires a creative in­cli­na­tion. There­fore, de­sign think­ing can also be con­sid­ered as creative think­ing. The ideation process throws up sev­eral so­lu­tions and pos­si­bil­i­ties. A process of anal­y­sis is re­quired to eval­u­ate and re-syn­the­size these in such a way that the out­come is a per­fect blend, which emerges out of the syn­the­sis-anal­y­sis-resyn­the­sis process.

The process of de­sign think­ing does not stop with the gen­er­a­tion of ideas and find­ing a de­fin­i­tive so­lu­tion. The next im­por­tant step is im­ple­men­ta­tion. This is where many in­di­vid­u­als fail. This process of im­ple­men­ta­tion re­quires pre­cise plan­ning, bet­ter as­sess­ment of re­sources, pre­cise iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of pos­si­ble bot­tle­necks, and fi­nally a process of mon­i­tor­ing and su­per­vi­sion (upon im­ple­men­ta­tion).

The over­all im­pact of suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion shows that even a weak idea could get stronger dur­ing the ex­e­cu­tion phase and help in ad­dress­ing the prob­lem.

The process is not com­plete with­out a proper eval­u­a­tion of the im­ple­men­ta­tion. The process of as­sess­ment should be frank and forth­right, and pro­vide po­ten­tial feed­back to the ideation for fur­ther im­prove­ment. The process of re­fine­ment goes on so as to con­tinue to im­prove or op­ti­mize the so­lu­tion. Fi­nally, a day comes when the idea has to die. A new set of ideas with a re­vised def­i­ni­tion of the prob­lem emerges, and the de­sign think­ing goes on.

In­dian sce­nario

Un­for­tu­nately, in In­dia, the spirit of creative think­ing or de­sign think­ing is at a nascent stage. The Li­cence Raj or Per­mit Raj had damp­ened the in­nate spirit of in­no­va­tion, cre­ativ­ity, and ideation. How­ever, with lib­er­al­iza­tion, in­creased com­pe­ti­tion, and a new spirit of startup cul­ture, one can clearly re­al­ize that a new gen­er­a­tion of so­ci­etal cap­tains is emerg­ing in the coun­try. These lead­ers— in man­u­fac­tur­ing, soft­ware tech­nol­ogy, and even in ed­u­ca­tion—are trans­form­ing creative ideas to ad­dress the unique prob­lems faced by In­dian so­ci­ety. It is clear that the spirit of de­sign think­ing is no longer re­stricted to prod­uct de­sign or com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­sign, but is now in­vad­ing all walks of life.

Fu­ture lead­ers of so­ci­ety will be­long to this school of thought. Lead­er­ship is the key el­e­ment in all so­cial sec­tors. There are many at­tributes re­quired for an ef­fec­tive leader. The abil­ity to en­vi­sion the fu­ture and work on creative ways to bring about change is a fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment. For this, fu­ture lead­ers would need de­sign think­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. And such a spirit can be in­cul­cated by the ed­u­ca­tion process. The re­al­ity though is dif­fer­ent—the spirit of syn­the­sis de­creases as one ad­vances from pri­mary to secondary to ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. It is nec­es­sary to en­sure that the spirit of creative and de­sign think­ing is em­pha­sized across all stages of ed­u­ca­tion. The for­mal ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem must pre­vail as a cen­tre of learn­ing for both stu­dents and fac­ulty, and to en­sure this it re­quires a 360-de­gree trans­for­ma­tion.

For the next two decades, de­sign think­ing con­cept will be cru­cial as the jobs of to­day might not ex­ist in fu­ture. To cre­ate lead­ers of to­mor­row, a de­sign think­ing-led ed­u­ca­tion will help de­velop dif­fer­ent lev­els of creative knowl­edge, skills, and mind­sets. It will cul­mi­nate in the feel­ing of creative con­fi­dence and can con­trib­ute to both de­vel­op­ment and man­age­ment of fu­ture-ori­ented so­ci­ety. De­sign think­ing should be woven into the learn­ing model for gen­er­at­ing the creative con­fi­dence.

Some of the traits that must be de­vel­oped as a con­tin­u­ous process for de­vel­op­ing fu­ture lead­ers are:

■ Will­ing­ness to ex­plore new al­ter­na­tives

■ Abil­ity to con­front a sit­u­a­tion

■ En­thu­si­asm to ob­serve and col­lect in­for­ma­tion

■ Abil­ity to de­fine, re­de­fine, and un­der­stand the prob­lem

■ Abil­ity to ideate and ex­plore so­lu­tion space

■ Care­ful anal­y­sis of the so­lu­tions and se­lec­tion of ap­pro­pri­ate idea

■ Im­ple­men­ta­tion of an id ea with full rigour

■ Eval­u­a­tion of the im­ple­men­ta­tion process

■ Know­ing when to aban­don an idea

A hu­man-cen­tered, col­lab­o­ra­tive, ex­per­i­men­tal, and op­ti­mistic ap­proach, de­sign think­ing in ed­u­ca­tion can help in groom­ing imag­i­na­tive and creative lead­ers who will drive the fu­ture. ■

SAN­JAY DHANDE IS CHIEF MEN­TOR AT AVAN­TIKA UNIVER­SITY.

The process of ideation re­quires a creative in­cli­na­tion. There­fore, de­sign think­ing can also be con­sid­ered as creative think­ing. The ideation process throws up sev­eral so­lu­tions and pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The abil­ity to en­vi­sion the fu­ture and work on creative ways to bring about change is a fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment. For this, fu­ture lead­ers would need de­sign think­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

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