‘Design Thinking’: Finding Solutions Through Creativity And Failures

One of the essential parts of the “design thinking” method is failure, according to Dr. Kai Bruns, a senior researcher and innovation manager at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS).

“Failing often is one of the moments where you learn more,” Dr. Bruns said during the event “Design for Startups” organized at AUD last week. “What failure comes with is the ability to criticize your own work, and to learn from mistakes, analyze them, and do differently.”

Design thinking is a cognitive, strategic approach that focuses on finding solutions to problems through creativity. Thinking like a designer who analyzes and frames problems has helped innovation within business and social contexts.

Dr. Bruns explained that the “Stanford model” has five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

The “defining” phase is a particularly core component of design thinking. “Design thinking says ‘this is one problem, but let’s have a look at another problem, maybe a more important problem,’ this is called mental reframing of the problem,” said Dr. Bruns. “This reframing of the problem is one of the core assets that design thinking is, this is how you come up with solutions.”

He gave the example of Stanford’s “Design for Extreme Affordability,” an initiative aimed at providing affordable products, created by students. In 2007, students designed cheap incubators for a hospital in Nepal, where there is a high rate of child mortality. Upon visiting the hospital, the students found out that the incubators were empty, and that the majority of the babies who needed them had passed away before arriving to the hospital. 

Design thinking allowed for them to redefine the problem, and find a new solution: sleeping bags with heaters to keep the baby alive prior to arrival at the hospital. 

“Many times when people come to you, they think this is the problem, but when you do design thinking correctly, you find out that that was not the problem, but their perception of the problem,” Meis Moukayed, professor of Health and Life Sciences at AUD, told the audience. “You dig deeper in the design thinking process and you do it right, and this is the beauty about design thinking — it has to be with an open mindset.”

“I want to stress applying design thinking not as a methodology, but as a philosophy — with any project that you do, and changing your mindset is very important,” Dr. Bruns said.

Dr. Bruns is also a member of the Committee of Experts on Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in the U.A.E.’s Ministry of Higher Education and Program Ambassador for the U.A.E. Stanford University Initiative.

Sammar Khader

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