Our traditional educational paradigm focuses on building strength in literary, critical and analytic thinking. To solve our current public health issues globally, I believe that design thinking is the new, integrated approach to developing our creativity’s strength in our community of learners.
Design thinking is boundless, infinite, and undefined – an adjustable toolkit to create innovative solutions for any public health problems in the future.
As I take on this new role to co-direct our online Master of Public Health program at the University of Illinois, Chicago, School of Public Health, I am engrossing myself into the literature of instructional, educational, and program design. How do we educate and lead students to be creative problem-solvers for public health issues, especially the complexity of these issues can be transgenerational, global, and systemic? The MPH program is often divided up in solo programs (Epidemiology, Biostats, Health Policy/Administration/Management, Environmental Sciences, and Behavioral/Community Sciences), and collaborations can be formed across the different fields. Rather than using a transdisciplinary manner, I’d like to adopt a new approach using design thinking to not only create solutions but also to create a new perspective on problems from ‘inside-out.’
The five principles of design thinking are: 1) empathy, 2) observations, 3) ideation, 4) prototype, and 5) experiment.
Empathy – Before diving into suggestion solution and offering any recommendations, as public health professionals, we need to understand, feel and see the problem from ‘inside-out.’ Cultural competency becomes important.
Observation – With an openness to listen and hear, we do need to stop doing, and observe, take notes, and digest what are the needs and behaviors that are elicited from these public health problems.
Ideation – Using your observation and open heart to listen, brainstorm ideas (not solutions) with others. No judgments, no playing devil advocate, and no negativity.
Prototype – Try out your ideas, your hypotheses, and your suggestions with empathy. If ‘this’ was your community, would your idea be acceptable given the circumstances, conditions, and culture? Give and receive feedback before you test it.
Experiment – With the buy-in from the community, experiment and gather information. The key is to co-create new ideas to foster change for a culture of health and well-being for all.
Design thinking allows us to embrace our creativity muscle to move across different realms with one key feature – inspiring for a better change.