Design thinking is prevalent across the world for its effective problem-solving techniques using design principles. We are beginning to understand that design thought and action are keys to most of the breakthrough contributions that human beings have witnessed.
With greater emphasis on the two Es—empathy and experimentation—design thinking focuses on keeping the user at the centre of an initiative, understanding her real-time requirements, and crafting solutions accordingly. It complements the existing approach for success, from becoming problem-solvers to creative solution-providers. In fact, for creating successful products and services, design thinking involves all the stakeholders—from design and business fraternity—to engage in meeting the various challenges.
Design is an iterative process. With the constantly changing world and its dynamics, design processes have undergone reformation, and design thinking is becoming a fundamental component of this evolution.
The newer applications of design thinking are visible across technology, healthcare and education verticals, with ever-smarter products and services that offer productivity gains.
Since the 1950s, we have experienced the pervasive presence of design for the mass launch and wider adoption of cars and consumer electronics across the world. Post the 1960s, the design element was aligned to the core product functionality rather than just the selling point.
A new era in design vertical was witnessed during the 1980s, first with Apple Macintosh computers and then to iPod devices of modern times. The focus was about maximising consumer satisfaction—by understanding their needs. It was a revolutionary development that went beyond technology and aesthetics, towards creating products with strong emotional appeal.
In India, a government-supported ecosystem can spearhead the growth of design thinking principles. A holistic policy framework can establish innovative and design-based thinking.
Some companies have started experimenting with design thinking to cater to target customer demands. Usha Fans is one of the examples, which has a product range designed especially for children. The company has incorporated imagery as part of fan design from popular cartoons—including Doraemon and Chhota Bheem—making it appealing for children.
University education today is generally dominated by vertical specialisations—there is little or abstract connect with the real world. Between various disciplines, the core emphasis is on the development of knowledge resources and capabilities within that specific study domain. We are producing great talent, but they are mostly problem-managers and not problem-solvers.
Educators across disciplines must look up to design thinking. The focus should be on incorporating design thinking into our education processes right at the inception phase. As a module, this concept should be introduced in the foundation course.
Design thinking-based pedagogy will help students develop insights from multiple perspectives, and it will give them the flair to solve real-world problems based on critical thinking and analytical skills. It’s time to take design to mainstream education.
The author is Sanjay Dhande, chief mentor, Avantika University, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh