Throughout my graduate coursework in Design Thinking, I have been challenged to identify problems and determine opportunities for innovation using design thinking methodologies. I revel in being able to support and encourage others to think bigger and outside of their scope of what is possible.
One of the highlights of my academic journey was being selected as a winner of the 2018 Design Management Institute (DMI) student essay competition and attending the 2018 DMI Design Leadership Conference in Boston, MA. I wrote to the question: “As an early career professional, what do you know now, that you wish you had known/studied in college?”
Knowing what I know now, I wish I had studied psychology in undergraduate school. Having insight about the ways in which people think and behave is an important component to innovative design, but have found understanding the inner workings of oneself is far more beneficial. Being able to take objective point of views and relate to other people are key characteristics of successful designers. Although simplistic in theory, I believe it is important to develop a deeper level of understanding about oneself, in order to produce innovations that will advance our society and the world.
Unknown biases are developed amid life experiences. An educational background in psychology can aid in identifying the biases that stifle objective thinking and empathy towards others. From experience and through my coursework in Design Thinking, I have found the most successes have come out of the strong relationships I have built with others and seeing things from different points of view. Prior to furthering my education, interpersonal communication did not come natural for me as I am an introverted person. However, as I learned more about myself on a cognitive level, I gained confidence and acquired techniques to effectively interact with people. While working in my career, I’ve found that I do not have to be an expert in everything in order to be successful or make a great impact. However, having excellent interpersonal skills and an empathetic heart will take you far.
We live in an individualistic, competitive culture driven by likes and praise. Some ideals programmed into our minds can actually prohibit innovation. In my early academic and professional career, ruled by a false image of perfection, I believed failure was not an option and I was too afraid to take risks. Seeking high approval, I felt the need to come up with solutions on my own and shied away from collaboration. I quickly learned that philosophy was counterproductive and destructive. I know now how important collaboration is to innovative design. I have also found that ideas do not have to be big or revolutionary to be influential. I didn’t realize this until I began my graduate studies in Design Thinking and started working in my career. Prior to this realization, I thought my ideas had to be radically different and original in order to spur innovation, but have learned that one idea can lead to other ideas. In fact, many innovations of the modern world were built upon things preexisting. I need only to be brave and voice them.
Ultimately, I believe self-awareness and empathy are vital to innovative human-centered design. As a designer, I know how important it is to design with people instead of for people. Impactful solutions are produced when all stakeholders are actively involved in the design process. Developing a deeper level of understanding about yourself, and the ways in which you think, will help you see things objectively and with clarity; setting the stage for effective collaboration.