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Unconstrained and open-ended opportunity for design driven innovation

To thrive in tomorrow’s new basics for employability we will all need an inquisition and creative confidence to engineer new ways of working. We will require a well-rounded ‘systems’ mindset, willing and able to envisage how countless components either add or lack value and how they can be leveraged to invent improved systems. Design Company IDEO have recently released Circular Design Guide along with ways to re-frame one’s thinking by adopting a systems mindset.

Bill Moggridge, IDEO cofounder and past Cooper Hewitt director once said, “Few people think about it or are aware of it, but there is nothing made by human beings that does not involve a design decision somewhere.” In education, Sir Ken Robinson reminds us about similar thinking, claiming schools kill creativity and an inattentiveness to design learning that truly nurtures and leads our students’ creative aptitude and passions.

Education is in an era of accelerated change, running alongside an inflection point in history whereby the hyper-connected global economy is driving shorter and steeper cycles of innovation (McGowan, 2016). We need to refocus, re-calibrate and redesign how we cultivate student creativity in design driven innovation, ideation and experimentation. Particularly in mathematic and scientific crisis to the workings of new technological situation and endeavour. The prospect for students, in pedagogy and practice, to design new systems and structures can often remain forfeit to laned academic traditions – and with it, we are left with a lax platform for nurturing true creativity and curiosity. Our educational pressures, high stakes exams and corporate norms stagnate and sojourn our multifarious philosophies and behaviours – manufacturing them to be fitting, traditionally convergent and expected.

There’s a shortfall in ‘design thinking’ training for teachers and there needs to be more conversation about how design thinking can influence, manage and invigorate new ways of teaching and learning.

An example of how design thinking can re-tune 21st education might include consideration of design process and design briefs that factor in elements such as:

  1. Importance of understanding user experience, empathy and interaction processes
  2. Adopting a systems mindset for design ideation
  3. More in-depth ideation/sketching and annotation skills to present problem-solving analysis and synthesis of concepts
  4. Digital literacy and presentation skills for multi-modal delivery e.g. creating explainer videos for pitching ideas and entrepreneurial education
  5. Collaboration and advantages of teamwork in design process
  6. Using authentic data sets and surveying targeted users
  7. Financial, patenting and IP processes associated with innovative prototyping
  8. Most of all, start inviting local experts into your classrooms to speed up everything!!

As educators, it is incumbent upon us to inspire, to challenge, to inform and to ignite passion and curiosity in our students. To facilitate this, we must adopt teaching practices that not only engage our students but also equip them with the skills to respond and contribute to a rapidly evolving and globalised world.

Design thinking provides students with a fresh lens to visualize their strengths, adaptability and interests for emerging job clusters. The study of design immerses our young learners into creative problem-solving processes actioning an agility and confidence to be divergent thinkers. This type of thinking will drive and empower our students [and teachers] to become the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. Educators need to be made more aware of design thinking trends and the framework, concepts and tools that examine the depth and scope of design thinking as a new mindset for education.

Now, more than ever before, Australia needs to grow the public value of design. Education needs to anticipate greater cultivation of diverse, creative, and entrepreneur citizenry. We need enterprising and innovative design thinkers with an aptitude to make discerning decisions about the impacts and openings that technologies procure and inherit. Students who have the entitlement to study design thinking are more engaged and active learners with improved writing, presentation, collaboration, and problem solving skills.

If Australia is serious about kick-starting it’s lagging productivity growth and exports, and weaning itself off the mining boom, it must ignite and amplify a genuine interest and optimism in a new generation of design thinkers by not eradicating our children’s natural predisposition to experiment and create.

We need to train the best and brightest teachers to nurture a new generation of start-up entrepreneurs and innovators with much better access to specialist design thinking education and funding. We need to promote Australian entrepreneurial heroes in our schools just as we do our sporting, acting and singing stars and leverage their knowledge and networks.

Ultimately, we need to invest more time into teaching students that better systems will always exist and supersede, [they] just haven’t invented them yet – and it is much easier to predict what can be removed from a system than what will be designed next.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens is right — we do need to get serious about developing enterprise thinking, inventiveness, ability to adapt and take risks – and we need it in our schools.