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Design thinking has been embraced by businesses, universities, social organisations, governments and even military units all around the world. The evidence of this impact is still to be measured in greater society. However, moving forward human-centred design will strengthen its influence as armies of design thinkers are growing around the world right now.

Many design thinkers are working for big tech and famous startups. Which means the best minds of our generation are thinking about how to get people to click on more ads. Rather than clicking on ads what if we got all those creative people to make something meaningful?

In his book, Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It, Mike Monteiro says, “The world is working exactly as designed. And it’s not working very well. Which means we need to do a better job of designing it. Design is a craft with an amazing amount of power. As designers, we need to see ourselves as gatekeepers of what we are bringing into the world, and what we choose not to bring into the world. Design is a craft with responsibility. The responsibility to help create a better world for all.”

There is an opportunity to start understanding design not just as a process of developing products and services, rather seeing the designer as a political activist. Especially for the moment we are living in now. There is a massive opportunity for design thinkers all around the world to make a meaningful impact and to design what is desirable into our society.

Richard Buchanan does a fantastic job explaining how this concept works with the four orders of design. Buchanan says, “The first order of design is communication with symbols and images. The second order of design is the design of artefacts as in engineering, architecture, and mass production. The third order of design is about how people relate to other people. We can design those relationships or the things that support them. The fourth-order of design is the design of the environments and systems within which all the other orders of design exist. Understanding how these systems work, what core ideas hold them together, what ideas and values“.

The systemic level should now be understood as the most critical space for the application of design. The ways we are designing systems today do not match up with the challenges that we will face in the future. There are monumental challenges ahead, and redesigning our outdated social systems is becoming critical. For example, the revival of participatory democracy, the redesign of cities for autonomous cars, the humanisation of AI, or Biotech and designing for the beginning and end of life. There are thousands of possibilities in places we can start designing better systems right now.

Design schools are the perfect vehicle for systemically redesigning our futures. Design schools all around the world have the opportunity to allow their students to design what is meaningful for our planet. There is a new networked society that is emerging and enabling a diverse range of people to interact and solve problems together. We now have 50 per cent of the world connected to the internet. And that is allowing a world of scarcity to give way to a world of abundance.

This more abundant world gives designers an opportunity to think about how they organise themselves. Currently, they are predominantly structured in hierarchical working models. We tend to think of leadership like a conductor in front of an orchestra, with the players following their lead. A new leadership model for a networked society should be more like a jam session for jazz. That way, there is an opportunity for everyone to have their solo. A more dynamic leadership where everyone can be a leader — also allowing leaders to become a follower so that the next person can become a leader, which means that unique and diverse points of view can come forward, rather than the dominant opinions of one person.

The world has to design something bigger together in a more collaborative way. Leadership must become inclusive; we need to be aware of who we are including and who we are leaving out. There is a quote from Mike Montero in his book, Ruined By Design, ‘Every time we are designing for a persona we are deciding who is going to be in and who is going to be out of the solution that we are designing.’ As leaders, we should think about how we include more systemic thinking and interact in different ways.

In my opinion, at least for now, humanity is the only superpower needed for the next century. Currently, technology is what everyone is focusing on. However, human beings are the only technology that matters. That is where design and the design schools are playing a significant role. These schools are transforming people so they can design and influence the new world that is emerging through the systems that they make with the solutions they provide. Humans are the most essential and dynamic part of the future, and we look forward to seeing how Design Thinking will contribute to this ongoing human experiment.

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Ricardo Ruffo

Ricardo Ruffo is a born entrepreneur, educator, speaker and explorer. As a writer by passion Ricardo daydreams on how the world is changing fast and how it could be.

Ruffo is the founder and global CEO of Echos, an independent innovation lab driven by design and its business units: School of Design Thinking, helping to shape the next generation of innovators in 3 countries, Echos – Innovation Projects and Echos – Ventures. As an entrepreneur, he has impacted more than 35.000 students worldwide and led innovation projects for Google, Abbott, Faber-Castell and many more.

Specialist in innovation and design thinking, with extensions in renowned schools like MIT and Berkeley in the United States. Also expert in Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts and Design Thinking at HPI – dSchool, in Germany.

Naturally curious, love gets ideas flying off the paper. He always tries to see things from different angles to enact better futures. In his free time, spend exploring uninhabited places around the world surfing.

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