Future of Design Thinking — An Inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi

I was recently invited to an event and the topic that I was expected to speak on was “The Future of Design Thinking” for an audience that comprised of people who in some capacity practice Design Thinking. A topic that is so fluid yet so important to visualize.

For some time it made me think, what would I speak, what should be the story etc. etc. and then I went to my best friends ‘A Pen and Post its’. I started scribbling what came to my mind and a lot of it, was absolute crap. After I went completely blank, a question cropped.

What is that one change / message I want to leave with the audience?

That’s it the answer was there …. The future of Design Thinking for this audience should be a responsibility to convert it into a movement and take it to the next growth trajectory.

With this thought in mind I started thinking of structuring my story, and the inspiration came in from the Freedom Movement of India — Chief Designer Shri. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, yes the Mahatma himself.

This is how the story shaped up ….

Phase 1: For any movement to start there is an underlying inspiration and there are a few people who are wanting that inspiration to reach to people and a change to start. For Gandhiji and his fellows, the inspiration was to breathe the air of a FREE NATION.

Similarly, for the Design Thinking community that inspiration is “adding value to the lives of fellow humans and other living beings on earth”. I feel that this inspiration to design the future of humanity is strong enough for it to become a movement.

Phase 2: For any movement to scale there is a need to prototype the outcome in form of a symbolic application that can become a story to inspire more people to apply it in their own walks of life. The SALT SATYAGRAHA became the symbolic prototype of the freedom movement and then people across India did small symbolic satyagraha to declare symbolic freedom.

For the Design Thinking community, the challenge lies in applying the tenets on real life used cases and create more and more application stories in their own areas of expertise Eg. An architect who thinks design should apply it in the next building he is designing, An aerospace engineer should think design when he is designing the next aero plane, A finance professor should think design when he is designing the next finance course for his students, A CA should think design when he is designing the next audit report for his client etc.

Phase 3: The movement assumes a steep growth curve in its third phase. In this phase the people (thought leaders) who have applied the inspiration start sharing stories and experiences with others and the growth becomes exponential. Mind you this is also a tricky phase of the movement, as in this phase the feeling of the thought leaders should be ‘GIVING’ and ‘CREATING SPACE FOR MORE PEOPLE’.

In the freedom movement, the road shows, public announcements, the flyers, evening gatherings in villages etc. became platform for people to share stories of application of freedom in their lives.

For the Design Thinking community I think this phase is still to come, where people should get a platform to share their application stories and also the community needs to work towards creating more space by creating career opportunities for Design Thinking professionals in their own respective streams. Just like, there are people having careers for Six Sigma skills OR people getting hired for Agile skills, people should also get hired for Design Thinking skills.

I feel if the community starts working towards this, I am sure no one can stop Design Thinking from becoming a movement. A movement that has the power to design a world that we all can proudly leave for the upcoming living race.

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