WHY TEACH DESIGN THINKING TO CHILDREN

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler wrote in his book Future Shock.

Keeping this in mind, it is the responsibility of the adults; parents, schools, and teachers, to prepare the students with the skills they will need in order to survive the future.

It seems simple enough, but it’s not. The reason is that 85% of jobs that will exist in the future haven’t even been invented yet. This was the report compiled by the Institute for the Future (IFTF). So how do you prepare the children for something that doesn’t exist yet? How can we teach our children to become problem solvers when we don’t know the problems that will exist in the future?

This is where design thinking comes into play. Teaching children design thinking allows them to develop a growth mindset as well as critical problem-solving skills. This is what you need to know to get the knowledge and tools to embrace design thinking yourself and to help teach it to your kids.

IS IT A NEW CONCEPT?

Design thinking is nothing new. In fact, every great innovator, musician, scientist, engineer, and businessman has practiced it.

Some of the world’s leading brands have already adopted this approach and design thinking is being taught at some universities as well. But what we need to do is to teach it from the very beginning so that children are at ease with it.

WHAT IS DESIGN THINKING?

Design thinking is a process that we use to find out the challenges and assumptions related to a task or a person and then use out of the box thinking to address them and find out alternate solutions that might not be apparent. It is a hands-on approach to thinking and working.

The roots of design thinking are deeply embedded in the understanding of the people who you are designing for. Whether it’s a product or a service. It’s a great way to enhance our questioning skills. How to question the problem? How to question the assumptions? How to question the consequences?

Design thinking is a great way to handle problems that are not properly defined or are not known. You find out all you can about the problem, create as many ideas as you can about it, and then by adopting a hands-on approach, test your ideas and theories until you have the right one.

THE DESIGN THINKING PROCESS

There are many ways the design thinking process can be implemented into a problem. The process usually has three to seven stages or phases. However, almost all the variations of the process are similar to each other. They have the same principles. They can be applied interchangeably. Here we will discuss five of those stages. They are:

Empathize

You need to understand the user’s feelings and share them.

Define

Identify your users’ needs and problems and develop your own insights about them

Ideate

Come up with out of the box ideas by challenging the assumptions that you usually work with.

Prototype

Your questions will lead you to solutions based on your ideas

Test

Find out which of your solutions fits the users’ requirements

 

Whether you’re an engineer, a scientist, a social media expert, an animator or design a logo specialist, you will need this approach to ensure that you are delivering the optimum project or task.

The most important part here is to know that these processes are not in sequence. You don’t have to follow a specific order. According to your needs and requirements, you can choose to follow it sequentially or mix and match. It all depends on your understanding of the phases.

EXAMPLE OF DESIGN THINKING

A famous example that beautifully captures the use of design thinking is that of the truck and the bridge. In this story, a truck driver tries to take his truck under a low bridge. He had underestimated the height of the bridge and got stuck. No matter what he did, he couldn’t move his truck either forward or back. He called the emergency services and soon there were firefighters, engineers and other truck drivers surrounding the place giving their ideas on how to solve the situation.

Some of them wanted to dismantle the parts of the truck, others wanted to chip away part of the bridge. There were a host of linear thinking ideas and none of them were giving them the solution. Then an old man, who was passing by, told them to just let the air out of the tires. When they tried this solution, the truck was able to move and passed from under the bridge.

This story succinctly symbolizes how we struggle with our problems and how the easiest solutions are the hardest to think of because of the constraints that we have put on ourselves.

BENEFITS OF TEACHING DESIGN THINKING TO STUDENTS

Coming back to the topic at hand, this is the kind of thinking that we must develop in our children if we want them to confidently step into an unknown world and thrive. Some of the benefits of teaching design thinking are:

  • Identify the problem and transform them into opportunities.
  • Understand the value of asking for feedback and help
  • Look at failures as opportunities to learn and use them.
  • Become a better problem solver.
  • Develop a growth-oriented mindset.
  • Develop the resilience to survive even after failure.
  • Focus on solutions rather than problems.

THE CRUX OF DESIGN THINKING

If we have to jot down the one thing that design thinking is all about, it is the designer’s intent to improve his work. This work might be some product that he is designing or maybe a service. He should be interested in the product and should be able to ask the questions that matter and challenge the assumptions that have been stopping him from doing the kind of work that he can.

WHO IS DESIGN THINKING FOR

The word ‘design’ in design thinking might throw some people off. They might think that it has everything to do with designing a product, visual, logo or something else. The truth is that design thinking belongs in every field and industry out there right now. Whether you are a leader, an engineer, a businessman or anything else.

FINAL THOUGHT

Design thinking is all about problem-solving and knowing the users and their problems. It is an iterative process where many ideas can be tested. It can really help our children identify and understand the problems that they might face in the future and come up with out of the box and innovative ideas to deal with them.

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