As the end of our university career draws near, and as we get ready to launch into the next adventures in our professional lives, here’s a question to think about: What is it exactly that you do? To be honest, I cannot count how many times this question has been directed to me, especially in the past months – as the job hunt began.
So, what is it that we do? And what exactly does design thinking mean? We learn about it in the classes, workshops, and lectures we attended. We apply it in all our projects, and spend hours upon hours going back and forth between ideas, research, prototyping, and coolhunting. But does this really mean anything to prospective employees?
On my recent travels to Lebanon, I learned that what I have been studying in the past nine months is not familiar to the professionals of the country. By going on job interviews and explaining what “design thinking” is, I wound up with blank stares and quite a few surprised reactions. But why? Granted, before going to the homeland I did my part of the research and saw how little the aspect of Design Thinking is integrated in not only companies, but also on the academia level. Nevertheless, with that in mind, I still sent out my curriculum vitaes and hoped for the best.
My initial intent was to introduce Design Thinking to the universities in Lebanon. Yes, I wanted to teach – and still do. Ideally, I wanted to be one of the persons who help in the launching of such a powerful program, to equip future students with what they need to develop solutions in the most effective ways. I know for a fact that if we train students at an early stage to research and research some more before starting a sketch or a model, this methodology will stick and accompany them throughout their careers.
However. The universities I interviewed with – and I interviewed with three, two of them are of the elite universities in Lebanon – were a bit hesitant to launch a new course (not program, just course) without “testing the waters first”. I did get a couple of good suggestions from one of the elite schools, telling me that I could give workshops and talks to students as a first step. Not bad… for a first step.
The bigger problem we are facing in developing countries (to state it nicely), is that companies and employers are that much more skeptical about spending an extra $10,000 on researching, when they could easily just, you know, start working on the project. There is little awareness about the importance of that first stage in a project, and about how much money and time those extra $10,000 could save the company. So basically, there is a STEEP uphill battle for all design thinkers in Lebanon. Speaking of which, there are quite a few of us who have studied Design Thinking abroad and are now moving back home to try and use it to solve the country’s abundance of problems. But that is a topic for a whole other post.
I realize that I went on and on about Lebanon in this post, but this is an issue that has been on my mind, and I am sure a few of us will run into the same problem as we graduate and leave to start a new page somewhere else. I believe that what we learned here at ELISAVA is a very powerful tool, and we are catching the wave as it begins. We will do big things with this someday, and we WILL figure out how to get people to believe in what we do.
And with that I say: Best of luck to each and every one of you!