The importance of design thinking discussed at webinar

Prof Sofri during the webinar

Design Thinking is a paradigm that focuses on the human being to integrate people, technology and business. The Centre for Entrepreneurial Sustainability (CENTS) organised a webinar titled, “Impactful Research on Sustainable Business: Design Thinking Paradigm” on 28 April 2021 via Zoom. Speaking at the webinar was Universiti Sains Malaysia Graduate School of Business Prof Dr Sofri Yahya who is a Professor in strategic innovation and coach of design thinking and former DRB-HICOM University Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and Research.

As countries around the world face an unprecedented health crisis and domestic business downturns, many were looking for new ways to address the issues. Under these circumstances, it became even more essential to shift our paradigms or revisit the way we perceive research. The webinar discussed the application of Design Thinking as a methodology of conducting research in the areas of business. “This webinar is to upgrade the world’s ability to solve problems through design and thinking. If we apply the methodology properly, it should help researchers to produce research outputs which are not only more meaningful but also more impactful to the stakeholders,” said Prof Sofri.

Another paradigm is also known as personal focused versus stakeholder centred. As a design thinker, there is a need to emphasise more on the stakeholders. “We could get better at solving the right problems. The issue with problem-solving is overlooking the causes as we focused on the symptoms. When you are resolving a problem, it’s important to understand the difference between the cause and the symptom. A symptom is an indicator or a sign that a problem exists. For instance, if your team has low productivity, it is a sign of a problem, unproductiveness does not happen by itself and cannot be resolved by itself. The underlying problem may be due to low morale which is due to heavy overtime, boredom, poor management, low pay and other related factors. In other words, when you resolve an issue, you must address the cause of the problem, not the related symptom. The final cause can be referred to as the root cause,” added Prof Sofri.

Prof Sofri explaining the design thinking process

Prof Sofri explained, “Clarity is power. The purpose to conduct research needs to be clear and it must have an impact on the society. Anybody can join the debate about the future of humanity, but it is hard to maintain a clear vision. Frequently, we do not even notice that a debate is going on, or what the key questions are. Unfortunately, history gives no discounts. If the future of humanity is decided in our absence because we are too busy with our work, all of us will not be exempted from consequences. As researchers, we cannot give people money, food, or clothes but we can try to offer clarity, thereby helping to level the global playing field.”

He then introduced the topic “Redesigning one’s thinking”. “It’s not only a process or methodology, it is also known as a paradigm. Design thinking is a methodology for creative problem solving that shapes the way we perceive things and how to solve problems and conduct research. Design thinking is a human-centred approach to solve problems innovatively that draws (heuristic) from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people (desirable), the possibilities of technology, (feasible), the requirements for business success (viable) and sustainable,” said Prof Sofri.

CENTS Chairperson Dr Mohammad Falahat Nejadmahani (top row, far left) and Prof Sofri (top row, middle) with the participants

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