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How design thinking can improve the world

Making things better is never a destination so much as it is a direction. Improvement is ongoing, as we try to make the world a better place for everyone in all sorts of spheres. One way the smartest people are examining the world is through the lens of design and applying it to areas they otherwise would not. This is worth considering for business people, in terms of thinking outside the box and finding new ways to approach their services.

What is design thinking?

The broad category of design thinking has long been recognised as an ideal focus for business and all manner of responses to problems. As FastCompany notes, design thinking consists of four principles

  1. Define the problem: this means constantly questioning what needs to be solved and why. It’s not merely agreeing there is a problem, but knowing exactly why it is a problem in the first place. Many who use design thinking stress the need for definition, since the act of defining is a constant focus on clarification.
  2. Diversify our options: Just because a response has worked in the past doesn’t make it the best one. We must consider as many as we can which can help solve the problem.
  3. Refine the direction: After outlining solutions, we must narrow down the best ones. This is hard, because some responses require time to reach their potential.
  4. Execute on the chosen response: This simply means putting the response into action.

Though each part sounds obvious, the key to design thinking is observation and challenging assumptions about what we’ve observed. One expert told the Stanford Daily that design thinking is “a tangible scaffolding through which [one] can approach problem solving.” For her “reframing” the problem was perhaps the central tenant of the process. She noted the redesign of scissors as a tangible example of design thinking in action.

Healthcare application

One area we might not think this has an application is medical healthcare. Yet, at a recent conference, this was precisely the topic at hand. Medical experts at a Stanford conference noted that it’s helped reframe their approach to healthcare. They “are working to change the system by integrating design thinking into medical school training and patient care. Together, the speakers painted a clear portrait of what design thinking means to them.” From speaking more carefully to patients to rethinking interventions, they consider design thinking important in helping them improve their responses.

This is a mindset that can, therefore, operate on many levels – from designing scissors to rethinking healthcare. With such a vast scale, anyone – from artists to business people – can benefit from implementing such structure in their approach to problems.

(Picture credit: Dave Gray / Flickr)