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Demystifying design thinking: Bruce Nussbaum

Dola Samanta
30th Sep 2015
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Design thinking is just gaining prominence in India and there is a lot of buzz around the word. We were happy to interact with one of the thought leaders in design thinking, Bruce Nussbaum, Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons New School of Design, a proponent of innovation, design thinking and creativity. He was in India as part of workshops for Spread. Spread is an Indian design and innovation firm training people to raise their creative capacities.

Talking about the Indian innovation culture, he points out that design thinking is not new to India. In fact, the Jugaad culture that exists in India in itself is quite creative. But what startups need to do is focus beyond technology. Technology has now become a product he says.

Relevance of design thinking in today’s technology world

Talking about the relevance of design thinking, Bruce emphasises on the fact that it is the need of the hour and is absolutely essential for startups these days. He gives us the example of the Google Glass, which is an amazing piece of technology. He talks about how engineers have created something so amazing yet it is a hundred million dollar failure. He says that some consumers thought that Google Glass was invading their privacy. So, the point he made was technology is important but what is more important is how that technology affects or touches the lives of the customer. Bruce says,

“From my point of view and from a designer’s point of view, the first thing you do is look for meaning, look for what other people find meaning in, in their lives, what they are looking for, particularly if you are selling them something, what do they really desire, what do they dream about, and then you find appropriate technology to apply and then come up with technology that makes them happy.”

He talks about China’s Alibaba business model and says that though essentially it’s a knock off from the West, they have incorporated certain aspects in their business which is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture. He cites an example of a custom in China where a red envelope which contains cash is gives to relatives. Alibaba introduced this on the digital platform through which one could digitally send a red envelope and the money gets transferred to the person’s account directly. So, his suggestion to Indians startups is that, let them first grab a platform and do the things that are important to Indians. That, to his mind, is going to be successful.

He also sheds light on some of the initiatives that the government can look to create better work environment for startups. Creating shared work spaces and building incubation centres will help to draw entrepreneurs together and share ideas.

China vs India

Bruce shares his experience in China and says the Chinese innovation movement is facing many challenges. The fire walls created by the government to monitor businesses and their activity are proving to be a big deterrent to startups and the innovation movement. In India on the other hand, while the environment is very open there is a need to build on a culture that’s not just driven by technology but also by consumer needs. Understanding consumer needs and adding meaning to whatever a business is delivering is the key to success.

Video Credits:

Cameraman: Rukmangada Raja

Video Editor: Anjali Achal

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