Design Thinking: Why Every Child Should Learn It

I was first acquainted with Design Thinking Principles (originally from
Stanford University) during one of my courses at Harvard University. The course was entitled “Designing for Learning by Creating”. I was fascinated by how we could all learn to be designers and create the best user experiences for others to improve their lives. Since then, I have incorporated and adapted design thinking principles into some of the classes at Artistic Strategies Academy, particularly in our signature holiday programme- “Young Inventor’s Programme”.

I strongly believe that every child should use design thinking when learning how to solve various problems. Not only it is a multidisciplinary programme that involves creative & critical thinking, evaluative, speaking and writing skills, but it is also broken down into 5 stages (1. Empathise 2. Define 3. Ideate 4. Prototype 5. Test) that can be used in any situation or context to solve problems.

Here are 5 ways in which Design Thinking can benefit your children and prepare them to solve future world problems:

1. Building Empathy

The main crux of design thinking is to empathise with the user. Practitioners of Design Thinking are advised to create a user profile detailing how a user would think, feel, do and say. By understanding more about the user’s problem, needs and wants, they will better understand how to create a product or service that could serve the user better.

If we introduce this approach to children, they will learn to be empathetic to others’ needs and wants even if they are different from their own. This will enable them to be more sensitive and cognisant of problems beyond their own and be more motivated to solve them.

2. Enhance the Quality of Ideas

In our current education system, there is often little or no opportunity for children to brainstorm and explore a variety of different ideas. In fact, many children that I have worked with are afraid of coming up with ideas for fear that their ideas might be criticised or looked down upon.

Conversely, in the “Ideate” phase of Design Thinking, practitioners are encouraged to come up with as many ideas as possible after they have defined the problem. No ideas are deemed stupid or worthless and from this variety of ideas, they are able to narrow down the ones that they would like to develop further. The more ideas there are to choose from, the more likely they are to come up with innovative solutions that have not been tapped on before.

If we inculcate this practice in our children, imagine how much the quality of their ideas would improve, not just for the short-term but for the world that they will inhabit in future.

3. Receptivity to Feedback

After creating their prototype (the first version of the product), Design Thinking practitioners are encouraged to get targeted feedback about their design. They will approach potential users of their product or service, get them to try using the prototype and obtain feedback about it. The feedback can be attained through interviews, surveys, and focus group discussions, just to name a few. Feedback is thus viewed positively and as a means to improve the design of the product further.

In a similar fashion, children should be receptive to feedback and view feedback as a means of improving themselves and their creations. They should also be taught how to seek feedback rather than waiting for it to fall into their hands.

4. Inculcating the Habit of Refinement

After testing their prototype and gaining sufficient feedback, the creation can undergo multiple “iterations” (repetitions of the Design Thinking process to reach a desired goal) in order to be refined and improved upon. A real life example of how a company produces multiple iterations of a product would be how Apple refines and modifies the design and features of its iPhone every time a new version of it is launched.

Therefore, when attempting to solve real problems, it is important for children to realise that it cannot be done with just one attempt, but instead, they have to persevere and go through the process of refinement multiple times, if necessary, to make the best version of their product or solution. There is ALWAYS room for improvement.

5. Confidence in “Selling” a Product or Service

Once the product is ready to launch, the creators of the product or service have to think of ways to get the word out and to attract the right audience to purchase it.

To do this well, they must have the confidence to “pitch” or sell the value of the product or service and how it is superior to the current ones (or precedents) available in market.

One of the best values that children can have is confidence in their creations. Only then will they be able to persuade others to believe in their creations too. After undergoing the rigorous, but beneficial Design Thinking process, they will know their product or service inside out and will be well-equipped to talk or write about it in their attempts to sell it.

I hope this blogpost has been helpful and if you would like to learn more about how Design Thinking has been employed in our courses, click here to find out more about our “Young Inventors Programme” that employs and adapts these Design Thinking Principles.

Yours truly,
Claudine Fernandez
Founder and Principal Instructor of Artistic Strategies Academy