14th October 2018
Before I begin, let me share an experience with you.
This summer, I had the opportunity to visit Ladakh on my own. The reason I took the trip was to visit SECMOL, a school with a difference. While most schools enroll students who pass exams, this school enrolled failures. Yes, you heard it right – failures!
SECMOL is a place for children who have failed in their tenth grades due to various reasons. Here, Sonam Wangchuk – the man who inspired the character of Phunsuk Wangdu in 3 Idiots – teaches the children who think and design. In a way, the school encourages Design Thinking.
So what exactly is Design Thinking?
It is the creative strategy that designers use to make products that the world needs. It is a process that follows: Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test; aka EDIPT.
Empathy is the starting point and the most important part of Design Thinking. Understand what your customers and non-customers are saying, thinking and doing, by having conversations with them.
Define what these empathy conversations are telling you. What is the key problem or opportunity?
Ideate and arrive at the most feasible option.
Make a prototype as fast and as cheaply as you can.
Test and get feedback on your prototype and try to improve it. And you are done.
Let me give you a few examples:
Steve Jobs saw that people loved listening to music-on-the-go, but the existing options were not handy enough. He realized that people needed something small to carry around to listen to music and thus the iPod was born, which turned around Apple’s fortunes. Come to think of it, the iPod is nothing but a storage device like your hard disk.
Netflix is another perfect example of design thinking. Netflix is a streaming online content provider that allows subscribers to watch TV shows, movies, documentaries, etc.
Google, Uber, Nike, Starbucks, Airbnb, Apple are all examples of design thinking. Most of these are products and designs that cater to a middle class and upper-middle class strata of the society. We need design thinking to change the lifestyles of all strata of the populace.
A few months ago, four engineer friends in Kerala designed a robot that can change the way manual scavenging is done in India. They have already created a prototype and tested it. If the product becomes successful, the manual scavengers of the country will no longer have to enter the sewers or carry human excreta on their heads. And guess what? They are being trained to operate the robot and will only make them live a healthier life. This is design thinking for the greater good.
Do you think design thinking is child’s play? Well, it could be.
Last year while learning about The Greater Himalayas, the 4th graders in our school learnt that snowfall in the terrain leads to disruption of normal life. This means that there is no transportation available at all and children miss school for months. This is a problem that needed a solution.
Two students named Vedant and Yohan, currently in V C, came up with solutions that could potentially solve this problem. Yohan came up with the idea of building a battery-powered vehicle that slides on snow, doubles as an insulated classroom, with desks and chairs, facilitating remote learning.
Vedant’s idea was to build underground tunnels, which make transportation easy during winters. These ideas may seem silly or impossible today, but I’m certain someday these ideas will save lives and educate many.
The concept of design thinking has changed the world and made our lives easier. It doesn’t matter how big you are. All that matters is how big your vision to change the world is. Are you thinking design thinking?