A story about Swiss Mountains, Children and the Need for Design Thinking in Education
I would like to tell you a story about my younger son. He just turned five years old a week ago and has an older broder who will turn seven at the end of this month. From time to time during summer time I just so sleep outside in a tent with them. Because of the summer sun, the tent sometimes heats up to more than 35 degrees Celsius. Stepping into the tent in the evening my younger son realized that it is much warmer in the upper part of the tent then in the lower part. Telling me about his recognition I proudly explained the physical law about warm air going up and cold air remaining low to my five year old. So far so good, I felt good being able to teach my son such a fundamental physical law at the age of five. Some weeks later, I went on a three day hiking tour with my sons in the Swiss mountains and we hiked up to 2`800 meters above the sea. There we found ourselves in the middle of snow and ice and my sons were glad I had some warm jackets for them in my backpack. Three months later by chance my son asked me: “Mom, why is it colder up in the mountain even we come closer to the sun by going up? And anyway, you told me that warm air is going up!” I now skip my no so well prepared answer…
And how is this story related to Design Thinking?
I am sure by now you wonder why I am telling this story and how it is related to design thinking. It`s simple, imaging my son would have packed his backpack by himself with the knowledge he had due to the tent experience and the physical law I taught him. He might have ended up on top of the mountain as an icicle in his bathers!
I am afraid to say, that according to the book of Idris Mootee “Design Thinking for strategic innovation” (2013) that’s exactly where (big) companies are heading to because of their leading managers. Idris Mootee does not say that they will be hiking in the mountain but she points out that they will get stuck and frozen and will not be able to keep up with this fast changing world, which is throwing many wicked problems into their face. “Given the speed of change today, extrapolating from the past could lead companies down a dangerous path,” says Idris Mootee (2013; 54) – because “new challenges have no history” she adds.
The Need for Design Thinking in Education
In her book, Idris Mootee states that future managers should focus on value creation more then on value capture. She explains that until now management education theories and tools focus on value-capturing efforts and reveals in an impressive way why design thinking is exactly what future managers should learn so they can lead companies into the future in a new and creative manner so they can face the wicked problems coming.
Good news! I am happy to tell you that several Design Thinking researchers have already started to think about how Design Thinking could be integrated into education:
- Research Report D-Think – Design Thinking Applied to Education and Training
(K. Tschimmel, J. Santos, D.Loyens, A. Jacinto, R. Moteiro, M. Valenca; 2015)
- Designing Education for Future Leaders
(A. Reyes & M. García; Touchpoint Vol. 9 No. 1; 2017)
So let’s do it!!
The author Mirjam Pfenninger is a SID student & Research Associate at Zurich University of Applied Sciences – Institute of Facility Mangement. She is strongly convinced that Design Thinking should be applied to teaching at ZHAW and all over the world.