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Creating an entrepreneurial mindset through experiential learning; offered by DCSE

You know what's the best part of being a student? We get to make mistakes and no reprimands for that... Recently I had an opportunity of attending a three day workshop on Design Thinking, organized by Deshpande Foundation, Hubli, Karnataka. It was facilitated by Rajan Patel, pursuing his graduate studies at Stanford Graduate School of Business . Before taking up his MBA at Stanford GSB, he led the Design and Development team at Embrace, a cost effective alternative for the expensive baby incubator [more about this later].

What is Design Thinking? 

Wikipedia defines Design Thinking as design-specific cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of designing. In simple terms, design thinking is a framework for our thinking process, a tool to include user's perspective while designing and developing products and services. The workshop predominantly dealt how one could use design thinking in creating solutions to their domain specific problems. I am not gonna bore you with technical details! Being an educator, I am working on how I could use this in maximizing learner's experience in classroom... [still working on it, once done, I am gonna share it with you all].

Core Tenets of Design Thinking:

The recurring theme in Design Thinking is Empathy. In fact, it starts with empathizing with the users. For example, in my case, understanding and empathizing with my students is the starting point of my study. The more I understand, the better I will be able to create an environment that maximizes their learning experience. Merging Empathy with Creative mindset and reasoning based on facts is what design thinking teaches us.

The process of design thinking is iterative in nature. We start with Empathy, move on to explicitly defining the problem that we are trying to address (simply, have a Point of View or POV as my trainer put it!), brainstorm ideas / solutions (it's fun ... use a lot of post-it notes and drawings). Once this is done, we zero in one a few ideas and develop prototypes (physical models), seek user's valuable inputs to Test for feedback. Based on the feedback, we might again go to empathy stage or any other stage to polish our ideas/understanding/models  and so the process goes on.

Image courtesy: http://challengedetroit.org/blog/ruthmclachlin/files/2014/05/design-thinking.jpg

Take Away from the Workshop:

1. Always Ask WHY - Why do we what we do? The most fundamental question to be answered before generating solutions (ask yourselves, how many times have we suggested solutions without even understanding the problem - personal/professional!). In the process, we actually answer the Emotional need of people. Isn't that what drives us? For instance, when designing a Rewards & Recognition program, the HR needs to ask WHY does an employee seek Recognition? is it because s/he is working hard or is there an emotional component related to it? In one of my empathy interviews, one of my colleagues said that recognition makes him happy and valued. Deep down, we all seek something in whatever we do, asking why is how we uncover that something.

2. Always be Action Biased: All the ideas that we generate and all the POVs that we come up with should actually conclude in developing prototypes. Don't just collect inputs, work on it! Have a POV, then come up with How Might We (HMV) questions, then move on to developing models and test for feedback. That's how we find solutions that work!

3. Never begin with a solution: Most of us have come across with neighbor aunts and uncles eager to offer solution for everything that happens in our life, haven't we? Hey, you are putting on weight, try this choorna! or "Hey, you are pale, try that choorna!" or "You are in your 12th standard, you should study facing East, drink pure cow's milk and should not watch TV, then you are the topper!!!" The problem here is solutions being offered without even understanding the situation. Go back to point number 1(WHY..yes, why should you go?!!!) and read it once again to get a clear idea of empathy. Have an open mind and then work towards ideas that may or may not be the solution for the problem (if there is a problem) at hand.

4. Brainstorming is Fun!: Yes, in most meeting, people say, "let's brainstorm!" and we all know what happens next, don't we? Encouraging wildest of the wildest ideas helps in understanding the user perspective or in getting a valuable insight and that might help us in offering simple and yet effective solutions. Use lots of Post-it notes and Diagrams to make it interesting! I had fun drawing images depicting activities of people!!

5. It's all about People: Design Thinking may sound technical and yes, it is technical. But deep down, it is like the tough father that 'feels' for the kid. The entire process stresses heavily on people and their emotions. I remember, our trainer, Rajan, kept on emphasizing on 'why' - "why  do you think this solves their problem"? 'why do you think this would make them happy"? etc.  Identifying Emotions behind each and every need is the key.

6.It' just a Framework: Yes, Design Thinking is nothing but a framework, albeit  a powerful one! A framework that works, that guides and that offers great solutions! Working on my idea and shall soon update how it worked in my line of work.

Learning Experience:

Being in a classroom is always energizing for me! I don't know why, but I always feel contented and happy when I am in a classroom. I guess, that's the reason why as students we are all full of LIFE! To be short and sweet, the workshop gave me a new perspective to think from, added a new color the ever colorful rainbow !

Let me conclude Part One by saying that, there is more to come in Design Thinking series. I will be updating you guys on what model did I work on and how might I use it in a live project. Wait for more.

The author works at Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship as an Asst Professor. He is also a part of Resources and Research Team. Know more about the institute here.

3 comments : Leave Your Comments

  1. Indeed it was a great experience being a part of the workshop! Good writing style and summarized very well!!! Waiting for the next part...

  2. Workshop was highly motivating and informative...! Summary is Nicely pinned here.....!