Design Thinking is a set of principles first outlined in 1969 by American Nobel laureate Herbert Simon, an economist, political scientist, and artificial intelligence pioneer. Simon’s work on decision-making and organizational dynamics—in which he redefined the concept of “design” as a way of thinking, rather than simply a blueprint for physical objects and systems—gave rise to a multi-phase, human-centered model for understanding problems and developing solutions.
The essential phases in the Design Thinking
approach as it is practiced today are empathy (observing something about people or the world), definition (identifying a problem or challenge), brainstorming (considering many possible ideas), prototyping (quickly iterating potential solutions), and testing/reflection (evaluating results and seeking feedback before repeating the cycle). The process is both a way of working and a way of understanding, aimed at challenging assumptions and redefining problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent. It can be applied not only in solving concrete challenges or answering unmet needs, but also in envisioning entirely new insights, products, or creative works.
Many of the world’s most innovative and successful companies (Apple, Google) have adopted Design Thinking as an engine of unprecedented growth—as have the countless designers, programmers, creators, and leaders who fueled their rise. Major universities (Harvard, MIT, Stanford) teach the Design Thinking process to students in a broad array of fields, from computer science to architecture, from business to urban planning and beyond.
In progressive learning environments such as Shore, Design Thinking is now taking its place in classrooms from Pre-K on up as an essential model for learning, problem-solving, creative expression, and collaboration. The Design Thinking process can provide a structure for activities as diverse as coding, creative writing, lab experiments, discussions of primary sources, and art; and it helps support a classroom culture rooted in empathy, teamwork, and comfort with failure.
At heart, Design Thinking’s purpose is nurturing a mindset of discovery and creativity that applies whether the task at hand is an inquiry into history, a science experiment, a computer animation, the assembly of a simple truss bridge, or the fabrication of a complex architectural model. Every teacher at Shore seeks to enable breakthrough moments for their students. Design Thinking is a tool that seems tailor-made for the purpose.