Design Thinking is a process that can support us to shift from improvement and reform approaches towards ways that encourage transformation and a “learning revolution” (Robinson, K, 2010). It can help us to respond to and prepare our learners for the demands of business sector and the rapidly shifting job market as technology replaces many process-driven tasks. It can also help us to empower our learners to be proactive when working with real-world complex problems. This is because Design Thinking processes help to build the skills and capabilities needed for learners to navigate multiple perspectives, to find common ground and to create “messy” solutions that haven’t been thought of before.
Design thinking encourages a bias toward action and, because of its reliance on rapid prototyping, frees practitioners to embrace the notion of failing forward because it’s OK to make mistakes — that’s where breakthrough ideas are born
There are five main stages of the design thinking process,
Empathy is the foundation and the heart of the design thinking process. Everything else is built upon it. Empathy is a powerful tool to develop an understanding of others’ needs, requiring us to look beyond ourselves and see the world from someone else’s point of view. Every day, we create experiences in our schools, whether in classrooms, on athletic fields, or even in the cafeteria. Yet how often do we stop to think how our users (our students, parents, teachers, and anyone else who comes in contact with our campus) are receiving those experiences?
When problems arise in our schools, it’s easy for many of us to give our two cents about how it should be handled. After all, we’re highly-educated, intelligent people with frequent opinions about how things should be done. How often, though, do we ask the opinion of those who are actually having the problem?
Once a DESIGN THINKING participant is able to identify a real-world problem worth solving, the next step is to explore ways to respond. The goal is not to find a perfect solution at this point. Instead, DESIGN THINKING participants seek novel perspectives with a bias toward innovation. DESIGN THINKING values the creativity and insights of all participants, regardless of specific expertise or a need to be “right” at first blush. It encourages outside-the-box thinking, which leads to unexpected creative solutions. DESIGN THINKING relies on a creative process based on “building up” ideas (rather than the typical analytical process that looks to “break down” ideas). Key to this is the belief that there is no place for value judgments early on. The DESIGN THINKING process rewards “and, and” responses from participants, as opposed to the “yeah, but” reactions that are typical of traditional academic experiences.
To DESIGN THINKING advocates, the idea is to help make an idea real, tangible, and accessible. Ultimately, DESIGN THINKING has a natural bias toward action. The best way to approach this—as many designers will tell you—is to use a rapid prototyping process fueled by an attitude of “fail and fail fast,” something ideally suited for learning in a complex and often messy 21st century world.
Creativity and open minds aside, DESIGN THINKING deeply values testing all assumptions. Solutions need to work. And better yet, solutions need to work in the real world and have an observable positive impact on the human experience. Because problems are found in the real world, answers need to be agile enough to adapt over time. Such a pedagogical framework naturally provides learners with the thinking tools to respond to an unpredictable future while remaining focused on the human experience.