June 28, 2024

Design Thinking Fosters Social Innovation

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Design Thinking could be variedly conceived as a methodology, strategy, idea or a worldview, that is essentially customer-centric in its scope and applications. On a granular level, it is borrowing the “eyes of a designer”, to “see the end user”, while developing products and services, tools and equipments and designing systems and processes. Design Thinking is iterative and non-linear in its development cycle, where feedback loops involving target users interactions and engagements are guaged using prototypes, that facilitates fine-tuning and refinement of the product, service or process, prior to commercialization.

In cut-throat businessworld, such adaptive design and development cycles, not only enhance product/service market fit and faster adoption by the target segment, but also significantly improves business agility to churn out products, services and cyber-physical systems at a faster pace, commensurate with short technology obsolescence, evolving customers needs and market dynamics.

Design Thinking hinges on three interdependent variables, firstly, the desirability of the product or service, secondly, the technical feasibility of the solution and lastly its economic viability. Practitioners have added sustainability as another variable, in consonance with a global campaign for the promotion and use of ecologically and environmentally sustainable products, which could be construed as a subset of desirability. Since Design Thinking is dynamic, agile and iterative and thereby non-linear, it accomodates wild ideas, their tinkering and testing and holds immense possibility of turning ambiguity into opportunity. Design Thinking passes through different sequential phases, from the initial discovery phase to define, develop and delivery of the solution. The dicovery and define phases constitute the problem space, whereas the develop and delivery phases are the solution space. When a problem moves from the discovery phase, it allows for brainstorming of a wide variety of ideas and solutions in the define phase, covering the broad spectrum of creativity and pragmatism. Divergent thinking is the norm for creating choices before convergent thinking of making choices. American scientist and two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, averred, “To get a good idea, you need a lot of ideas.”

In a world buffeted by pernicious storms of climate change, environmental degradation, and onslaught of rapid technological advances, it is imperative that Design Thinking discipline must transition from customer-centric to human-centric to humanity-centered design paradigms. The clarion call for a circular economy is vociferous than ever before, considering the kind of environmental legacy, we intend to bequeath to our posterity. Sustainability should be at the core of every economic and non-economic activity, prioritizing the preservation of the planet, the only place humanity can call it home. Design Thinking with empathy as one of its first principles, could not only foster social innovation at scale, but also serve as a powerful enabler of social and environmental change.

The original content of the note was published on Countercurrents.org. To read the full note visit here

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