The Impact Of Design Thinking On Business, Economy, Environment, And Future Of Society At A Global Level
I am inspired to post this piece after reading about progress in Design Thinking programs in several universities in the United States recently. My aim is to raise awareness of the potential of Design Thinking for the business, environment, economy, and the future of our society.
Design Thinking may sound like a simple approach or even a soft skill from the outset; however, it is a potent tool for humanity to think systematically and collaboratively. Therefore, it became a mainstream thinking and collaborative communication tool in business organisations and academic settings.
I have written books and spoken a lot about Design Thinking over the past decade. My educative contributions as a thought leader and hands-on practitioner enabled me to be recognized as an influencer in this field.
In this article, rather than going over the technical details of Design Thinking, I focus on the big picture for the future using a couple of samples from the US on how Design Thinking is used by society and industry with input from academia. It is pleasing to see that Design Thinking is closing the gaps between academia and industry.
Using Design Thinking, we can resolve many debilitating and critical issues such as climate change, sustainability, racism, and the recent pandemic.
You may wonder what Design Thinking means. First, I want to give some brief background and context to make my points sensible to my readers. Design Thinking is an established process and powerful agile approach focusing on the users and consumers of the solutions. It is an innovative practice in the business world.
Design Thinking practice assists the practitioners to understand uncertain and ambiguous situations in the earlier phases of the solution lifecycle by questioning assumptions, reviewing risks, issues, and dependencies.
Using Design Thinking, we can define solutions with clarity and redefine ambiguous points by re-framing the problems. From these perspectives, Design Thinking can be considered as an innovative problem-solving technique with close interactions of the actual users of the solutions who experience the problems.
A Design Thinking method can include several aspects such as questioning, brainstorming, prototyping, iterative experiments, sketching, and continuous tests with a user-centric approach. The core premise of Design Thinking is the user who experiences problems as the focal point.
You may have heard the famous quote of Saso Kunitake (author of The Non-Designer's Guide to Design Thinking), who said, "Design thinking seems to be an important way of thinking in 21st-century business, but I am not sure where to begin."
As a practitioner, my recommendation is to understand the five phases of Design Thinking:
1. Empathy with consumers of future solutions
2. Definition of consumer needs
3. Ideation to challenge assumptions
4. Prototyping for solution definition
5. Validation of solutions
Design Thinking allows team members to be intuitive and logical at the same time. Furthermore, as Design Thinking is part of agile methods, practitioners produce their ideas iteratively with no upfront cost for solutions. Consequently, this approach has the potential to reduce solution cost for business organizations, increase return on investment, and contribute to profitability goals in the economy.
From pragmatic solutions perspectives, Design Thinking can enable solution team members to be more creative in recognizing new patterns, which are usually tricky using traditional thinking approaches.
This method's most valuable and compelling aspect is to encourage the practitioners and solution leaders to think outside of the box or even beyond the box for solving complex problems.
Such a thinking approach can increase creativity, diversity, collaboration leading to innovative solutions. Using the Design Thinking method, team members can be inventive; hence they can add new meanings to their initiatives.
I want to briefly introduce Design Forge 2021, which takes place today at Elon University in North Carolina. The Forge 2021 brings twenty-one teams from across higher education and non-profit sectors together to design participatory placemaking projects.
This event hosts a diverse group of design thinking educators, practitioners, and thought leaders, including Tulane University and Brown University. This event also "welcomes members of the Elon faculty, staff, and students alongside the African American Cultural Arts and History Center, the Mayco Bigelow Center, and Alamance County's Health Equity Collective."
The Design Forge also offers breakout adventure opportunities open to Elon students, faculty, and community members. In addition, participants can choose from sessions featuring tools and strategies for participatory design pedagogies, digital storytelling, as well as local and global learning resources.
Another prominent Design Thinking activity in the US relating to society is in CCS (College for Creative Studies), a private college in Detroit, Michigan. CCS's Systems Design Thinking program leverages the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow in the face of climate change and other global challenges.
The CCS System Design Thinking program participants can design initiatives and projects in a forward-looking, inclusive, and integrated way. Their experience is shaped inside the multi-layered reality of Detroit, known as a UNESCO City of Design designation.
If you are interested in future design projects, I highly recommend you look at the Equitable Mobility Detroit 2030 initiatives, which aim to explore innovative neighborhood mobility proposals. You can find more information on this CCS website.
To conclude, Design Thinking is used as a powerful conceptual and practical tool to shape our future collaboratively, always putting the consumers of potential solutions as a priority in the equation.
Thank you for reading my perspectives.