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  • Carol Wong

Design Thinking is a Mindset

I helped the Government in setting up the first design thinking school in Malaysia in 2012. Since then, over more than seven years of managing, training, coaching, and consulting in Design Thinking, I am of the view that Design Thinking mindsets are critical in making Design Thinking works for you and your organizations. In fact, from my perspective, Design Thinking is a Mindset. I will explain why I say so.


Design Thinking Process


The Design Thinking process draws on the natural human intuition to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, especially in solving complex problems that cannot be easily analyzed.


The process helps to dive into the problem and find new insights. The human connection with the needs and motivations of real people helps to inspire and trigger deep insights to fuel innovation efforts.


In short, the Design Thinking process is a human-centered approach to innovation. Design Thinking provides a structured approach to achieving creative confidence. I believe everyone has the potential to innovate and that everyone can learn innovation skills.


Design Thinking is a Mindset


Throughout the innovation journey, we must change our mindset to achieve creative confidence. We must shift a fixed mindset of limitations to a growth mindset of limitless.


One prerequisite for achieving creative confidence is the belief that our innovation skills and capabilities are not cast in stone. Once we open our minds to the possibility that our capabilities are limitless, we will be motivated to overcome any challenges.


We get inspired by observing, immersing, and engaging with those people for whom we are solving the problem. We engaged emotionally by listening with empathy. Propelled by intellectual curiosities accompanied by a mindset of compassion inspires us to come up with more innovative ideas.


Empathy listening means challenging our preconceived assumptions of the problems, and it allows us to set aside our sense of what we think the truth is to learn what the truth is. Starting from a different point of view can help us get to the essence of a problem. We must not be afraid to make a stand to begin our innovation focus on ideation for experimentation. During the ideation phase, we must encourage wild ideas and explore countless possibilities.


Encouraging wild ideas is a value that needs cultivation. In most instances, employees are afraid to suggest ideas in case their bosses kill their ideas. Some are not willing to share ideas in case their ideas considered stupid, not creative, or not feasible. Ideas are not bad. We must defer or suspend judgment.


Of course, please do not fall in love with our idea too soon. As part of our innovation journey using Design Thinking, we will need to experiment with our selected idea. We must be ready mentally to throw away our darlings and start all over again.


We must have a mindset to celebrate failures often because the valuable learnings from our failures will enable us to build a more human-centered compelling solution. It is the ability to accept repeated failures as the price of ultimate success. It is a mindset that encourages not just lots of ideas, but actions.


In Summary


Design thinking is a proactive mindset that takes actions throughout the innovation journey. Design thinking is an iterative process of divergent and convergent thinking. Emotionally we could be going through a roller coaster ride, and hence we will need to be prepared for a journey of VUCA.


We must be comfortable with the innovation journey. It will be a journey of high volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It is navigating through the chaos. Notwithstanding the ambiguity, the Design Thinking process itself will eventually get you out of the chaos in search of your innovation.


Therefore, you can consider applying the Design Thinking mindset and process in your transformation or innovation journey.


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