Making a smarter Malaysia

Lee says design thinking is not only useful in your professional life but social and personal as well. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Lee says design thinking is not only useful in your professional life but social and personal as well. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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PETALING JAYA, July 31 — Staying ahead in the 21st century requires one to think innovatively in finding sustainable solutions for complex problems.

Such is the ethos of Genovasi, the country’s first dedicated design thinking (DT) school.

Officially launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Aug 1, 2012, Genovasi aims to inculcate the design thinking culture among youths and foster the culture of innovation and human-centred solutions.

Genovasi Malaysia Sdn Bhd chief executive officer cum executive director Datuk Lee Yew Meng said DT utilises intellect to its best potential by helping a person become an innovative thinker who finds multiple ways to create opportunities.

Design thinking

“Design thinking is by definition a human-centred approach to solving problems in a creative manner. It is meant for you to empathise (an issue), then you define the issues, then look at the various solutions, then you make the prototype and then test,’’ he said.

“When we do this, what happens is we are making use of all the experience we have, the training, and your innate talent to find a creative way to solve challenges and problems.

“It makes you smart and gives you an edge as people around you might have two ideas while you have three.”

Genovasi is one of only four Hasso-Platner Institute (HPI) Certified Design Thinking Schools in the world. HPI is also a sister institute of Standford University’s (design school).

“At Genovasi, our mission is in designing Malaysia, making us a smarter community,” said Lee.

Since its inception, almost 4,000 graduates have passed through the organisation’s doors, the bulk of whom are Diplomatic and Administration Corps (PTD) cadets from the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan).

“While the PTD cadets were doing their 10 months’ Diploma programme before being posted, they trained here as Design Thinking Innovation Ambassadors (DTIA),’’ he said.

“Then, hopefully, they can apply the lessons here in their work environment to be more creative.’’ 

Staying ahead

Lee believed more DT schools would emerge in the country and even in the region, but Genovasi would stay ahead of the curve as the DT module it possessed was thoroughly researched. 

“There will be other DT schools cropping up in the near future but we believe we have the right recipe, extensive research, a passionate team, and tremendous support from the government which gives 

us an edge,’’ he said.

“I felt very fortunate for this opportunity to ensure that Malaysians benefit from this and we can do justice for ourselves.”

With its fifth anniversary celebration tomorrow, Lee was enthusiastic about Genovasi’s progress so far and its achievement in training the country’s future administrators. 

However, he wished the culture of DT would be a norm in future generations.

“We want DT to be embedded into Malaysian society so well that it becomes very natural. DT is not only applicable in your professional life but social and personal as well,,’’ he said.

“Since the DT school was established, we feel it is incumbent upon us to help the country predict the trends by looking at our responsibilities more holistically.’’ 


Lee firmly believes DT redefines how Malaysians can contribute to nation-building.

“It is not enough to only say I am a Malaysian and love this country. You must at all times think and demonstrate in your duty by being as nationalistic as you can in everything you do,” he said.

This duty is best served by endeavouring to do productive and positive work, instead of engaging in redundancy.

Lee is also looking forward to seeing new students enrol at Genovasi University College (GUC), the world’s first design thinking university, as it would focus on preparing graduates to face the fourth industrial revolution.

“The revolution or Industry 4.0 will cut down on labour-intensive work as it will rely more on Artificial Intelligence and automation. This means that work that used to take 350 people to complete could be done by 3.5 people,’’ he said.

“In GUC, we will match the graduates with the needs of the industry decades ahead, ensuring they are not only employable but productive and an effective individual.’’ 

Innovation creates wealth

Evolving with the current need of accessible education, GUC will also introduce an Online Distance Learning (ODL) module, said Lee. 

“Apart from the conventional university campus, we will employ ODL to make DT more accessible as students of today know they can study anywhere,’’ he said.

Lee was confident GUC would provide its students with the right tool to produce more creative opportunities.

“The simplest way to define innovation is something that creates wealth and improves the ecosystem if it does neither then it is not innovation,” he said.

“The beauty of it is that if we do it correctly then we will always reap the reward in one form or another.”

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