What is there in design thinking? The DNA of Genovasi

JUNE 19 — What is the most important asset of a country? Why Singapore, a country with scarce resources won the economic race relative to its more natural resourceful neighbours? The answer seems to implicitly points to its human capital value. Plenty of land and natural resources does not guarantee a nation good wellbeing if its people are hopeless in utilizing and managing the non-human assets. On the other hand, a creative and innovative thinking citizen can turn around a nation with scarcity into a country of plenty.

More so in this budding era of Industry 4.0 – nation with imaginative and inventive minds will skyrocket itself above the others. Even incumbents such as the United States is falling behind the more inspired China. The current 5G war between them is a testimony to be reckoned with, forcing the former to resort to wicked tactics in order to maintain trade supremacy.

Learning from these real-life episodes, we at the Genovasi University College (GUC) has made it mandatory for all its graduating students to embark on a journey of Design Thinking (DT) modules. We are preparing the nation to give births to more thinkers rather than mere bookworms. It is the DNA for all levels of its academic programs from diploma through bachelors and post-graduate degrees. Not less than 10% of each program’s total credit hours is devoted to DT knowledge and its application in real-life. With this intensive DT indoctrination, the graduates of GUC carry valued-added attributes of creative thinkers and problem solver in addition to their academic forte.

The root of this mission were instituted in the d.School of Genovasi Malaysia Sdn Bhd (GMSB), the forerunner of GUC which is still running the German Hasso-Plattner  model of DT. To date the DT dedicated school of Malaysia has trained more than 5,000 public servants the arts of design thinking to be practiced in their everyday lives as the engine of the national civil force. The work of d.School was given a recognition when it was recently inaugurated as the world secretariat for the Global Design Thinking Association (GDTA). Naturally, when GUC was given the birth certificate to operate as a university college, the design thinking gene of the d.School is carried along, manifested in its academic syllabus at the various level of study. GUC is currently the only institute of higher learning in Malaysia that promotes the much dedicated Hasso-Plattner model of DT.

According to the 2010 Critical Skills Survey of the American Management Association, today’s employer is demanding workers far beyond the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic to ensure the growth of their business. They want critical thinkers and problem solvers that have the skills to identify solutions to non-ending problems encountered in the daily routines in the workplace. Possibly, the lack of this ‘essential’ attributes among the local graduates contributes to their inability to secure good profession in the job market. It is not rare now to find graduates doing jobs in the clerical sectors. Some resort to fulltime Grab drivers.

The meteoric rise of China in most fields particularly in technology and inventions is the result of paradigm shift of their abled leaders. Deng Xiaoping started designing China from a country beset with social conflicts, disenchantment with the communist party and institutional disorder inherited from Chairman Mao’s era, he liberalized the economy by opening its door to the world. He is considered as the architect of a new brand of thinking – “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. In just four decades, the old China is now history, the hibernating giant is waking up with a roar that mesmerize the whole world. The message contain in this episode is that the blueprint of China’s gigantic leap lies in the critical thinking of the late Premier Deng Xiaoping who envisage the solution to its predicament.

The above China’s anecdote inspired GUC to take the lead in producing design thinkers to a wider based among the nation’s citizen as well as beyond its shore through Online Distance Learning mode. Let’s walk the country and the world together through this challenging IR 4.0 passageway where the asset of the country lies in the thinking component of the human brain - the cerebrum. For this reason, our emblem logo below depicts the two hemispheres of the human brain traverse internally with neural pathways.  The latinized words on top “aliter cogitare” translate into “think differently” and the bottom “consili sententia” means “design thinking”. From this platform our graduates, fortified with the DT  deoxyribonucleic acid will mutate the nation into the uncharted realm of the future.

*The writer of this article is the Vice Chancellor of Genovasi University College, Prof Datuk Azarae Idris. As an ecologist he saw the astounding ways of how nature goes around its problem, as if that this non-human corporeal world carries a thinking intelligence – designing nature as it is.

**This is the personal opinion of the columnist.