15 Jan 2021 15:04 IST

‘Life becomes an enjoyable experience as a design thinker’

Prof Sudhir Raj K at JKSHIM, Nitte, discusses the nitty-gritty of design thinking

Design thinking is an oft-used concept in many sectors of industry today It involves steps such as understanding the problem, exploring solutions, prototyping and testing, and implementing them.

Considering future challenges of management and engineering students in their careers, academicians are also realising the significance of design thinking in education.

Sudhir Raj K, Professor at the Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management at Nitte in Udupi district of Karnataka, feels that if engineering and management students master design thinking, they can easily solve the problems. He said, “Design thinking is about problem-solving by design. Thinking like a designer can transform the way people develop products, services, processes, and strategy.”

Methodical innovation

Calling Thomas Alva Edison a design thinker, he said Edison invented the electric bulb and then tied an entire industry around it. Edison clearly understood that electric bulbs alone cannot be commercialised without a system of electric power generation and transmission. So, he focussed on those aspects too. In his Menlo Park Laboratory, he had appointed scholars, developers, improvisers, experimenters, artists, and historians.

Quoting Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, an innovation and design firm with headquarters in Palo Alto, US, he said design thinking is a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centred design ethos. Here, innovation is understanding through direct observation of what customers want in their lives and also what they dislike.

Finding the flavour of design thinking in some government programmes such as ‘Swachh Bharat’and ‘Jan Dhan,’ he said a real-life problem was defined and a methodology was developed to solve it innovatively.

“If we go by the operating high-power definition of design thinking, a Government programme /scheme is a solution to the problems faced by the people of a nation. I would say that the entire ‘Swachh Bharat’ programme was conceived by keeping design thinking and ultimate users in mind. The increasing awareness on sanitation resulted in the higher usage of toilets under this scheme. This has resulted in better economic outcomes,” he said.

Problem solving

Sudhir Raj, who has conducted workshops on design thinking for corporates, said that academicians have realised the significance of design thinking in management and engineering education. Modules on design thinking have been inserted in courses.

He said the engineering and management students can solve problems easily, if they master design thinking. Their broad thinking frame is accommodative of all players and consequences. They can visualise tomorrow today. For them, the future is now, he said.

“If anyone is a trained problem-solver with design thinking, I am sure personal and professional life will be really an enjoyable experience,” he said, adding, managers and engineerstrained in the art and science of design thinking, can become great contributors to any organisation.

Exploratory process

He made it clear that just thinking creatively is not design thinking. “Design thinking is multidisciplinary. It is a mix of creativity, innovation, problem solving, failure, success, present, past, future, humanity, love, passion, learning, experimenting, and questioning, ” he said, and described it as an iterative, non-linear, exploratory process.

Urging the design thinkers to be of patience, he said, “There will be a lot of ups and downs in the journey. Edison failed several times before achieving success. Design thinking helps chart a path into the new normal.”