Sustainable future is based on design thinking

I experienced a small revolution in my mind when I participated the Design Thinking course held by Katja Tschimmel in Laurea 2019. It grew even bigger after reading the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley and the Design Thinking article by Tim Brown.

In the end, I realized that attempts to make this world a better place are not going to be sustainable, at least with full potential, without using design thinking approach and experimenting.

Design thinking as a methodology

Design thinking is a methodology (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, p. 25; Brown, 2008, p. 86). This might sound a bit boring but I think viewing design thinking as a methodology makes it easier to apply in different contexts. After all, there are huge, complex problems to be tackled in our world, e.g. climate change and social inequality, and there is no single right answer to be found. Therefore, in order to find new innovative products and practices we need design thinking and human-centered approach (Brown, 2008, p. 92). I already have some research methodologies in my toolbox but design thinking really makes me excited because it involves an element that’s often lacking. And that’s concrete action and rapid testing in the real world!

I’m a researcher in my nature and I’m used to rely on data. But sometimes there’s not data available or it’s really difficult to analyse. Then design thinking and using empathy and prototyping might be the only key to move forward (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, p. 25). This is what we also practiced together in Design Thinking course and, although it felt a bit difficult at some point, it came clear to me that without human-centered approach and prototyping the creative potential we have is not fulfilled and opportunity to truly be innovative is lost.

Together we produced lots of innovative ideas (some of them probably more innovative than others but that’s a different story)

Creativity equals natural

In front of daunting global challenges it’s understandable to feel discouraged. But everyone has the capability to be creative and improve everyday life by using design thinking approach. Creativity is not limited only to “official” designers ; it’s a natural feature of human species.

However, David and Tom point out that the real value of creativity doesn’t emerge until you are brave enough to act on new ideas (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, p. 5). I especially enjoyed their example from Tibetan language where is no separate word for ”creativity” or ”being creative”. The closest translation is ”natural”; therefore, in order to be more creative you just have to be more natural, simple as that!

Or is it that simple in practice? Being creative and trying new ideas contain always a risk of failure (actually it’s guaranteed that failures happen). The catch is that lessons learned from failures make us smarter and stronger if we just keep taking the steps forward together with supporting people.

In addition of being natural human character, creativity is also coachable (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, p. 63). I felt lucky to be surrounded and coached by supportive fellow students in Katja Tschimmel’s course and most importantly: it was inspiring to be creative together!

References:

Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. 2013. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.

Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, 84-92.

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking. Lectures. Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Espoo, Finland.

2 thoughts on “Sustainable future is based on design thinking

  1. You have a great way to share your thought processes with the reader: I felt that I had walked the path to these revelations right there by your side 🙂 It would be interesting to hear how do you feel about experimenting ideas in real world yourself considering that you might be more used to data-based actions in research field?

  2. Thanks for the comment! Well, I have to say that I’m excited but also a bit nervous at the same time! Like you said I’m more familiar with data-based experiments in controlled environments, such as laboratory or forest field. Trees don’t have opinions and they can’t refuse to be part of my study, heh. Of course it’s not possible to control everything even in natural sciences, e.g. one time elk destroyed our study field… Altogether, I’m curious to see what happens now in this new adventure with design service and human-centered approach. I’m sure the path will be full of surprises and new insights 🙂

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