‘Basically everyone needs to have trouble-shooting and problem-solving skills.’
Applying empathy to understand another’s needs, brainstorming creative solutions with your peers, in a learning environment where failure is encouraged — Victoria’s new Tech Schools are embracing design thinking.
You may have heard the term ‘design thinking’ bandied around recently. Google’s research arm Alphabet took inspiration from design thinking for its new program, announced in July, to improve how people interact with artificial intelligence.
Stanford University’s d.school in California has offered courses based on design thinking since 2005.
The new Tech Schools being built across Victoria use design thinking in their learning programs.
So what is design thinking, and why is it popping up everywhere?
The design thinking concept isn’t new. It has its roots in the mid-20th century when industrial designers began publishing their problem-solving methods. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 80s that it really started to gain momentum.
How does it work?
At its simplest, design thinking is a creative, team-based problem-solving process that encourages failure and is driven by empathy.
It goes a little like this. Before even thinking about solutions, you must empathise with the person or people who will use whatever you develop. This means putting yourself in the end user’s shoes and defining what they need through experience.
Then comes the fun stuff. Team members chime in with ideas, no matter how weird or wild.
rom this rich pool of creative juices, cheap prototypes of a few of the most promising ideas are built to test with target users.
Target users then give feedback, and the prototype is modified and refined. The steps are repeated until a viable solution is reached.
Good for Business and Industry
Unsurprisingly, design thinking is recognised as a process for problem-solving across all disciplines, including industry. So what parts of design thinking do businesses need?
‘All of it,’ says Callum Liddicoat, continuous improvement manager at True Foods, a flatbread manufacturer in the Central Goldfields town of Maryborough.
Mr Liddicoat was part of a group that attended a design learning workshop at La Trobe University in Bendigo in June — the site of the new Bendigo Tech School now being built.
‘Basically everyone needs to have trouble-shooting and problem-solving skills,’ he says.
‘It doesn’t matter who you are — from managers to cleaners, if you spot a problem, you need to do something about it.’
The cross-disciplinary nature of design thinking also makes it attractive to industry. Traditional subject boundaries are transcended and people with different skills and knowledge are brought together to develop innovative solutions.
When David Clarke, Vice President, China Operations of medical device company Anatomics, heard about the Monash Tech School, ‘it interested me a great deal’, he says.
Building better hip replacements, for instance, needs a variety of people with ‘deep knowledge in one area and a smattering of understanding of others’. That knowledge overlap means team members can better communicate ideas. But ‘we’re finding it extremely hard to find these people’, he says.
Mr Clarke took part in a design sprint event at the Monash Tech School, which will officially open in Term 3. He was impressed by how the Tech School’s approach mirrored the Anatomics workplace and how a design thinking mindset helps prepare students for work.
Mr Liddicoat agrees:
‘Having [design thinking] taught in the Tech School will be very beneficial for us.’
Design thinking at Victoria's Tech Schools
The Bendigo and Monash Tech Schools are two of 10 Tech Schools being established across the state, a $128 million commitment by the Victorian Government to help make Victoria the Education State.
These shared high-tech hubs offer innovative, hands-on learning programs focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and developed with local industry.
Students enrolled in partner secondary schools will solve real-world problems with the latest technology – and design thinking.
Teachers will also benefit, being able to undertake professional development programs to help guide their students through the design thinking process.
Monash Tech School Deputy Director (Curriculum) Neil Carmona-Vickery says teachers guiding Tech School programs ‘provide the scaffold and specifications for a student’s journey to the end product’.
And they don’t necessarily know what that end product will look like.