Design thinking approach to generate creative ideas

Ahmed Mostafa and Junayed Bin Rashed | Published: January 02, 2019 23:17:16 | Updated: January 05, 2019 14:46:25

Students engaging in a design thinking activity related to tree plantation in Alokito Hridoy School in Tangail

In Bangladesh, after graduation, the first question that probably comes to the mind of a fresh graduate is whether they will get a proper job or not which is in line with their acquired degree. But do they think of the skills they have acquired over the years, that will actually be meaningful and will serve a purpose- solving day-to-day problems of our society and environment? If no, and if this continues to be the trend, then are we not risking having a working youth-force which is devoid of the necessary skills our society requires?

It is important to introduce Bangladeshi students to a more solution-based approach from an early age, keeping in mind that these very children will be the next generation of leaders, who will be taking on the challenges brought forth by the impending the fourth industrial revolution. This is where the concept of design thinking comes into play. Design thinking is a mindset, a globally tested and renowned approach to learning, collaboration, and problem solving. In practice, it provides a structured framework for identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions. In theory, it aims to generate creative ideas and solutions by thorough understanding of human problems holistically.

This can be an effective tool for tapping into the analytical mindset of the youth population that are studying from kindergarten to grade 12. The guiding philosophy is that they are and will be part of the solution. This could potentially create and enable thinkers and nurture future leaders of Bangladesh.

While design thinking has been successfully implemented in research and technology for more than forty years, the idea of incorporating them into teaching children has been largely practiced in the last decade. IDEO and Stanford University are the pioneers in providing this education all over the world, and it is time we start thinking and plan to incorporate it in our system.

Design thinking can be implemented in a very small scale as part of a pilot testing, but the impact that it can have has huge implications. Small monthly activities like giving a class of fourth graders the task of identifying what will be the best use of their lawn can help instill the philosophy of solving problems of their community. As these children grow, they can be given more challenging tasks like helping to solve the local waste management system. This approach will also help them in creating a generation who are concerned citizens and actively take part in solutions.

While this approach seems like a good fit for our country, it does not come without its cons. The first challenge that comes up is the training of a huge number of teachers in this approach, and to establish a proper monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure that the approach is working. Moreover, the gulf difference in standard of education in our rural and urban areas also pose a challenge in the effectiveness it may have on less-developed places.

Starting in a mass level may not be feasible and thus a pilot could be started as soon as possible in collaboration with organisations who are adept in design thinking, so that a curriculum and training manual is developed based on the needs of the Bangladeshi education system. The transition from the current system to a design thinking approach will face resistance and, in many ways, may not be accepted at large. Proper demonstrations and real-life cases that resonate with Bangladeshi scenarios must be developed. The ways how this design centric approach can be taken must be clearly communicated to the people who will deliver them to their children. We need to keep in mind that this will be a long-term process and the dividends that will yield may and will take years. It is important to keep patience so that the students and teachers are given adequate time to adjust and get accustomed to this system and are given the proper space to flourish. There will be mistakes, but those need to be handled calmly.

India and Sri Lanka have already started incorporating this approach into their curriculum, while countries in the ASEAN region like Vietnam and Cambodia are preparing to start the pilot phases within a year or two. Thus, it is very crucial that our policy makers look into the matter and find ways to incorporate this approach into our system.  At the end of the day, if we cannot develop a passion for learning, we will cease to grow.

Ahmed Mostafa is an education sector specialist at e.Gen Consultants Limited and a marketing consultant at Alokito Hridoy Foundation. He can be reached at

Junayed Bin Rashed is International Development Officer at e.Gen Consultants Limited, and can be reached at

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