Design thinking as a process opens up creativity and not just in the fields in which we apply it during workshops.  But first a little more on Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a process that assumes that focusses on problem identifying rather than problem-solving. Furthermore it takes a stance that we as professionals do not know it all, and the answer lies within the people we often try to create a solution for. It starts off with five steps originally created by the Standford This is definitely not a new concept and has been used in engineering and business for many years.

However, applying it to a health research field is fairly new.  Why would you want to do this one may ask? Well from experience it is purely because the solutions that we as academia come up with is not always the solution the society wants or needs.  There are many intervention strategies but not all are sustainable and it is often because we do not really know what our target audience need or want.

This was proven in a small-scale research project in Africa where the burden of non-communicable disease is extremely high with the added aspects of poverty and access it is really difficult to develop intervention programs that are sustainable.  During this project researchers found that the solutions are not education community members are well aware of what it is that are healthy food, some even know that exercise is good and also know what exercises to do.  Their biggest need was equipment along with guided instructions.  Due to the funding of the project it was not possible to set up outdoor gym equipment but the researchers used the information from the community and knowledge gained and came up with other solutions like jumping ropes form garbage bags, which they made themselves.

The further spin-off effect by including the community into the process was a that it sparked other ideas, like making these jump ropes and selling them and using the money to buy healthier food.  Some also indicated that maybe they should start cooking together healthier stews which will include a lot more vegetables by putting their food together.  The amazing thing that this process sparked in this community is that they are able to find solutions and they do not have to wait for others to tell them what to do.

Taking this a step further is the use of the design thinking process in basic laboratory sciences to develop a new way of working and develop tools that will improve the BLS education.  The preliminary results were insightful.  But more than that the feedback form participants that they enjoyed the process and seeing the possibility of using this approach in their classrooms in teaching.

By utilizing this process as people we are opened up to the possibility of creating, and thinking in a different way about finding solutions.  If you would like to read more about DT in a challenging context you can find the full-text here

Watch this space for updates on the role of DT in improving of teaching and learning in BLS.

Author: Chrisna Ravyse