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Demystifying design thinking for India

March, 2017 Dr. Sanjay Dhande

  • Design Thinking - Definition and what all comprises DT
  • Concept
  • Evolution of Design Thinking
  • India Inc feature and possible challenges that can be solved using DT
  • Future Outlook

Design thinking as a concept is prevalent across the world today for its effective problem- solving techniques using design principles. We are now beginning to finally understand that design- thought and action are both keys to most of the breakthrough contributions that human beings have witnessed as a civilization. It is backed up by a set of smarter tools and methodologies to help unlock greater potential. With a greater emphasis on the 2E's- "empathy and experimentation", the design thinking focuses on keeping the user at the centre of the initiative, understanding their real-time requirements, and then crafting solutions accordingly. It complements the existing approach for success, from becoming problem solvers to creative solution providers. In order to create successful products and services, design thinking involves all the stakeholders from design and business fraternity to effectively engage in eradicating the prevalent challenges.

Concept: Design, as you will agree, is an iterative process. And with the constantly changing world and its dynamics, even the design processes have undergone a reformation, with design thinking becoming a fundamental component of this conscious evolution. It draws upon logic, imagination, intuition and systemic reasoning, to explore future possibilities through effective problem-solving techniques. Simplistically put, design thinking is an outcome of designer's sensibilities and methods that help cater populace needs through technology and business strategy. It further helps create customer value and even address the market opportunity. Further, design thinking even anticipates the problems of future and helps them address today. It brings the right balance between analytical and intuitive thinking. The newer and wider applications of design thinking are visible across technology, healthcare, and education verticals, with smarter products and services that offer productivity gains by improving the overall processes for customers.

Evolution of Design Thinking: Today in an era of easy information access, the digital processes have brought new possibilities for the design arena that requires an ethical and feeling attitude along with sharp intellect. The other step forward is created using professional design education that is sensitized to feel, think, and act for a rapidly changing social world. Design thinking approach has been in existence for a few decades now. It has the power to lay a better foundation across industry verticals. Ever since 1950's, we have experienced the pervasive presence of design for the mass launch and wider adoption of cars, consumer electronics across the world. Post-1960's, the design element was aligned to the core product functionality rather than the selling point. A new era in the design vertical was witnessed during 1980's with the launch of Apple Macintosh computers, to iPod devices of modern times. This can be attributed to the early application of design thinking to develop actual business solutions. The focus here was about maximizing consumer satisfaction " by understanding their practical needs. It was a revolutionary development which was beyond technology and aesthetics towards creating products with strong emotional appeal. Even the social and system scientists, Russell Ackoff (from 1981), Marvin Weisbord (from 1991) propose that design is "the creation of a desirable future and the invention of ways to bring it about.", and how the world is moving from experts designing our systems to how regular people are performing this activity, respectively.

India Story: Design Thinking is widely gaining prominence in India by breaking the stereotypes for future development. The actual transformation of design thought into the process will be led by design thinking principles that can evolve with the right direction. The intuitive experience of this process will help get a deep dive into user personalities and their preferences for future. The idea should be to create an enterprise social network that includes all stakeholders, combined with a suite of tools, method, and processes. For India, a government supported ecosystem will spearhead the growth of design thinking principles. Also, a holistic policy framework will further establish innovative and design based thinking. At present, some of the product companies have started experimenting with the application of design thinking for their campaigns to anticipate and cater their target customer demands. Usha Fans is an example of implying some of the basics of design thinking principles which became a major success with the product range dedicated for children. The fan manufacturer incorporated imagery as part of fan design from popular cartoons, like choota bheem and doraemon, making it appealing to the children. The future product companies will be able to address and anticipate problems better by creating robust systems and processes by incorporating design thinking principles at a root-level.

Future Outlook: The university education of today is dominated by vertical specializations with a 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 certainly are producing great talent but they are mostly problem managers and not the problem solvers. Our conventional system is certainly missing out on solving real world problems and exploring the emerging opportunities. We need to collaborate and brainstorm our interdisciplinary attitudes and abilities to realize the innovative possibilities for future. It is at this juncture the educators across disciplines must look-up to design thinking, in order to bring out that balance for the various domains of specialization, with new attitudes and capabilities within an educational and university set-up. For an optimum success, the focus should be on incorporating design thinking into our education processes right at an inception phase. As a module, this concept should be introduced in the foundation course for the next generation. Design Thinking, based pedagogy will help students develop insights from multiple perspectives, and it will give them the precise flair to solve real-world problems based on critical thinking and analytical skills. The time has come to take the design to mainstream education to help future professionals solve problems successfully by applying innovative ways. A repositioning for design as a discipline is required, as advisors, mentors, and coaches. Possibilities are many to unleash the power of design thinking to demystify any and every professional endeavour.