Design Thinking on Campus: Re-design Your Life With Innovation

No problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it.” – Albert Einstein.

Einstein is considered one of the most brilliant people who ever lived. What you’ve read above is one of his famous quotes. So, of course, who are we to disagree with a genius. But let’s say we want to solve all of our problems in an easier way. What are our alternatives?

The question is, how do we go beyond our expectations, solve problems more easily, and maximize the opportunities our education grants us?

Well, one of the more promising alternatives is the concept of “design thinking.” Have you ever heard of this concept? If you haven’t, we’re going to help you. We’ll discuss the concept of design thinking, its principles and see how it can help you further your academic career.

The Definition of Design Thinking

The concept of design thinking was popularized by Tim Brown, the founder of IDEO, a successful Silicon Valley design firm. In his book, “Change by Design,” Brown explains that design thinking will allow you to approach all of your challenges and find solutions quickly.

In the book, Brown also outlines the five core principles of Design Thinking:

  1. Empathize: Best designs are always centered on humans. Putting people in the center of your process will help you create and maintain humanity as you innovate and move forward.
  2. Define: You need to define what your problem is, how it can be approached, and what you can do to solve it. Everything starts with the correct questions. Remember that.
  3. Ideate: Innovation never comes out of a single idea. You need to have multiple ideas before settling down for one that will help you solve your problem. A transformative idea never comes from one source, so don’t be afraid to consult with others.
  4. Prototype: You know the saying, show, don’t tell. Experiencing a solution is much better than talking about it. Just consider how much more you get from sampling food than reading about it and its nutritional value.  
  5. Test: The difference between innovative and creative people is action. Take action. Test your ideas. Have multiple versions of your idea. Without action, you’re just stuck with a bunch of ideas and nothing more.

Many college students try to create and launch their products while still in school. Design Thinking should also be applied here. 

Let’s say you’re working on a small project. No matter how small it is, test it as much as possible. Test everything from the product to its package. For example, do you know how corrugated boxes can be customized? Design multiple boxes, send them out to potential users, and see what sticks. 

Each of these principles translates into a process/action that brings it to life.

Design Thinking in Higher Education

As many scholars pointed out already, every higher education institution has its own culture and organizational features that prevent one-size-fits-all solutions to problems. However, it turns out, Design Thinking is that universal tool many have been looking for.

The question now is, how can you use design thinking to your benefit? You can start by:

  • Introducing the user perspective into the conversation. If you’re working on a project, always think about the end-user (a person that will consume the product) and what they want.
  • By applying the brainstorming rules. You’ll be able to come up with multiple ideas and pick the best one during multiple brainstorming sessions.
  • Look for inspiration from analogs. Try to look outside the faculty and your campus for successful innovations. Try imagining how they might be applied in your context.

Closing Thoughts

The five stages of Design Thinking are not mutually exclusive and can happen all simultaneously. This is why the model should be viewed as different ways to contribute to a project rather than sequential steps. Of course, you can take the steps out of order too. The point is, by taking a Design Thinking approach, you’ll be able to solve multiple problems quicker than you imagine.