Reinventing yourself through design thinking

Everybody continues to be in a state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. This external force that compels you to come out of a state of inertia need not emanate from any external source. It can even be your own design thinking that can help you to reinvent yourself. This process of re-engineering oneself is applicable to both an individual and an entity.

What exactly does design thinking mean? The notion of design as a “way of thinking” in the sciences can be traced to Herbert A Simon’s 1969 book, ‘The Sciences of the Artificial’ and in design engineering to Robert McKim’s 1973 book ‘Experiences in Visual Thinking’. Rolf Faste expanded on McKim’s work at Stanford University in the 1980s and 1990s, teaching “design thinking as a method of creative action”.

Design thinking is a formal method to arrive at practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions with the intent of an improved future result. On that count, it is a form of solution-based or solution-focused thinking – starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem.

Caught in an obsessive quagmire of redressing the problem, we often tend to get bogged down with it rather than think of a solution. This will lead you nowhere. As our former president, Abdul Kalam said, the problem should never be your captain. You should be the captain of the problem. This requires moving away from the problem and focussing on its solutions.

It was in 1979. I was preparing for my Intermediate first year examinations. My father came to my hostel to enquire about my preparation. I told him that Physics was completely incomprehensible. My father came again to me when my results were announced.

Obviously, he was expecting that I would fail in Physics. To his great surprise, I secured 97 per cent marks! When my father wanted to know why I had felt that Physics was so hard, I replied that I had never said I would not win over the problem. When Physics was indigestible to me, I analysed my problems with Physics. Finally, I could address the problems. Decades later, I discovered that it is this presence of mind and spontaneous change of approach that denote the principles of design thinking.

You have to start solving the problem by defining it. Identify the different parameters that lead to the problem that you are encountering. Analyse the ambiguous aspects and explore alternate solutions to arrive at a conclusive solution to improve the situation.

Design thinking employs divergent thinking as a way to ensure that many possible solutions are explored in the first instance. Subsequently, convergent thinking helps in narrowing them down to a final solution.
Don’t wrack your brains when caught in a problem. In order to arrive at a solution, it is better to have a brainstorming session with friends and colleagues.

Stefanos Zenios, a professor of Operations, Information, and Technology at Stanford Graduate School of Business said that brainstorming is powerful because it brings together people with different experiences, whose range of ideas could be amalgamated into one viable, novel and creative solution to the problem on hand.

Experts suggest that this solution-oriented approach to a problem, known as design thinking, has seven stages- define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement and learn.The problem assumes a complexity when it is ill-defined. Always remember that a well-defined problem is half-solved.

The teacher always tells students to understand the question first. Many children start writing the answer even before they fully comprehend the question. From a doctor’s diagnosis to a businessman’s dilemma, the best approach to a problem is to first understand it threadbare. Break the problem into smaller and more tractable questions and you will be on the right track.

Can you think of anyone who tries a lot but invariably fails? So never be scared of failure. Brainstorming removes the fear of failure. No problem is intractable. No problem has only one solution; there are ample number of solutions. Never hesitate to attempt a solution. I was never clean bowled. Even Sachin Tendulkar had to face it. Am I a better cricket player? The reason is simple-I never played cricket in my life. Failures stay if there is no attempt to resolve them. You are the master of your own destiny. Let me tell you an anecdote to conclude.

Gautama Buddha was sitting on a rock and doing his penance. A mother was walking down the street with her mischievous son. The mother told the naughty boy that Buddha was the greatest scholar, who knew answers to any question. The kid wanted to test Buddha. He went to the Enlightened One with a butterfly in his folded hands. “Please tell me whether it is dead or alive,” the child asked Buddha.

The idea of the child was to press and kill the butterfly if the answer was that it was alive. If Buddha says it is dead, he wanted to leave it unharmed. Anyhow, Buddha would be wrong. But, the Tathagata replied: “The future of the butterfly lies in your hand.”The moral of the story is that your future is in your hands. Solutions are within yourself. The question is how you approach them. Reinvent yourself.

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