Implementing Design Thinking In Education

What is interesting about design thinking is that it is not bound by technology: a good design understands the human needs around an issue, recognising the challenges in using the product and consumer expectations around the problem

In the last decade, design thinking, which encourages leaders and entrepreneurs to look for innovative solutions, has become a mainstay in the business studies jargon. At the heart of the design thinking approach to solving business problems, lies the simple and human-centric goal: enhancement of user experience. In turn, by boosting user experience, design thinking seeks to attract more consumer engagement in today's saturated market, ergo sales.

To keep up with the growing needs of the industry and to develop a relevantly skilled cohort who are industry-ready, the b-school curriculum needs to be updated with modules on design thinking. Essentially, these modules will be targeted to break down minutely the needs of the consumer around the product so that a 360-degree view of the issue at hand is developed and actionable steps can be taken to address the problem. Fostering in management aspirants the leadership quality of anticipating, analysing and delivering upon consumer wants, design thinking is set to elevate business education. 

Already many b-schools, observing the growth yielded by often simple and effective designs, have begun deeming design thinking to be an essential part of their pedagogic diet. However, while it is already being heavily prescribed to integrate design thinking into the curriculum, the skill needs to be properly distinguished from run-of-the-mill technology solutions and automation. 

What is interesting about design thinking is that it is not bound by technology: a good design understands the human needs around an issue, recognising the challenges in using the product and consumer expectations around the problem, as opposed to adding a new, high-tech feature that adds a layer of complexity, making the product more muti-facted. Designers recognise that often users want simpler products with a design that increases the efficiency and ease in achieving the main task of the product (brushing teeth or the overall ease in using the toothbrush, in the case of a toothbrush) rather than add-ons; if the add-ons hinder the ease of carrying out the main function then they are better done away with.

For example, in a certain model of electric toothbrushes, the initial aim was to add features that tracks brushing frequency, play music and adjust to gum sensitivity, but instead, the implemented innovation was more of a success as it served what the consumer wanted. The resultant product was an easy-to-charge toothbrush, which also was connected to the user’s phone so that the user could get notifications when it was time to change the brush heads. 

Another prime example of design thinking in operations, which prioritised user experience over mere operational efficiency, would be the innovation of child-friendly MRI machines. The problem at hand was simple but daunting: MRI machines being cold and dark often made children jittery, thus hampering the imaging. To tackle the issue, the company brought in a simple feature, the 'pirate adventure', which engaged the attention of the children by showing them sceneries of beaches, sand castles and the ocean, relieving the distressing feeling of being trapped in a dark chamber. With this innovation, thr medical firm observed a 90 per cent increase in customer satisfaction scores.

While it is true that design thinking is not technology-bound but definitely, technical solutions if delivered to amp up the user experience are fine examples of design thinking. Take, for instance, remote KYC, a popular practice in banking today. Earlier, KYC was a daunting task which required filling up several forms and a long waiting period for document verification. With the new method, the image of the documents and the consumer is processed remotely via scanned documents uploaded, followed by a verification step which entails capturing images of the user and their requisite document of identity over the video call. This tech-enabled process not only is consumer-friendly by cutting down on the waiting on the consumer’s end but also by curtailing the debilitating paperwork on the part of the organisation.

In terms of Human Resource Management as well human-centric design thinking can prove to be efficient. The principal motivation behind an HR function is to track and ameliorate employee productivity. In an article by Deloitte, titled 'Design Thinking: Crafting the employee experience', under the Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, it is well-commented that while most HR processes involve forms and surveys and compliance checks and balances, many miss the employee experience factor. By reducing complexity in HR processes, the article suggests that the employee experience peaks and in turn, fosters productivity and growth of both, employees and the organisation.

Examples of how design thinking has delivered better results abound but the necessity to impart design thinking goes beyond just ameliorating business processes. Even for a management aspirant who wants to foray into entrepreneurship design thinking will be useful. The human-centric approach tailors the mind to identify the needs of the consumer, ergo sharpens the mind to notice market trends. Therefore, be it for the future job-holder or the business tycoon, design thinking beckons to be the business thinking staple.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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