Design Thinking – what the world needs today

Covid-19 and it's ramifications will be seen by design thinkers as a positive challenge.

The World Economic Forum has stated that the top ten skills required in the next decade are soft skills, the most important being; Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking and Creativity.

New Zealand is in the top ten in the world by most global creativity indices. We are an innovative and creative country — we’re not perfect, but we are resilient and relative to our size we have made big impact globally. We introduced the 8-hour working day, ushered in eftpos and introduced women’s suffrage – being the first country to give women the right to vote. We are an adventurous bunch too; A Kiwi was the first to take a powered flight, climb to the top of Mount Everest and we invented the jetboat. We push boundaries; our artists, writers, film-makers, athletes and sports teams show the world that we are influential people.

So what is design thinking and where has our innate ability to think differently come from?

Design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers – all innovators in all sectors practice it. So why call it design thinking? If you break it down to each word – Design is a systematic process that that enables learning and extracts ideas; Where Thinking is a human centered technique to solve problems.

Design thinking is not linear. It is a revolving thought pattern that challenges assumptions and redefines problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions. According to the Hasso-Plattner Institiute of Design in Stanford there are 5-phases of Design thinking.

  • Empathy – with people, listening and understanding views and perceptions
  • Define – needs, problems, insights and intended outcomes
  • Ideate – challenge assumptions and work through ideas and innovations
  • Prototype – begin creating solutions
  • Test – trial solutions

Breaking it down to five steps seems relatively simple; however it is important to note that the five phases or methods need regular critique and are often iterative and repetitive. Meaning a skilled design thinker will know when to reiterate, often achieving better solutions faster.

So why do New Zealander’s think differently? Is it due to our country size and landscape? Or even our diverse culture? Some would argue it’s in our DNA. The first people to settle in New Zealand, traveled from Polynesia in waka. This surely would have required an adventurous and challenging spirit to take up such an expedition as crossing the Pacific Ocean.

What we do know in these uncertain times, is that the current global pandemic of Covid-19 will not leave the world as we knew it before. But we can all take comfort in knowing that this will be seen as a positive challenge by design thinkers alike.

Author: BOON