Innovation through design-led thinking: ESTEAM Collaboration with D-School UCT | Somerset College
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Innovation through design-led thinking: ESTEAM Collaboration with D-School UCT

03rd May 2021

Today, more than ever before, we are required to innovate in response to complexity. We live in a volatile world that presents us with great challenges, but with great opportunities too. A creative and enquiring disposition along with the application of tried-and-tested processes can help us to develop solutions.

The ESTEAM team has established a relationship with the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking (UCT) situated at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Members of the D-school visited Somerset College for the first time in 2019 in order to view the ESTEAM centre in preparation for planning their own new building. In March, the Senior School ESTEAM team and two members of our preparatory team were fortunate to take part in the half-day long ‘Design Dash’ hosted in our ESTEAM centre by facilitators from the D-school. The ESTEAM team benefited from the opportunity to focus explicitly on the design thinking process, to deepen our understanding of the technique and to consider how it relates to the methodology applied in our ESTEAM programmes.

The D-school process exposes students to working in multi-disciplinary teams on real world problems. As such, the approach has much in common with ESTEAM which provides students with essential practice for the complexity of the real world and exposure to students’ possible future careers. 

Key take-home points from the workshop were: remain human-centric, practise empathy, embrace diversity, defer judgement and build on the ideas of others. “Fall in love with the question” was a key action that delegates were encouraged to commit to. By remaining focussed on the question and avoiding a rush to judgement or solutions, understanding is deeper, empathy is greater and consequently, solutions which are generated will be more comprehensive and sustainable. This concept is reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s famous quote, ‘It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.’

In a volatile and ambiguous world, the importance of utilising design thinking strategies to develop solutions, and as a school, incorporating these strategies explicitly in our work with students, cannot be overstated.  The ESTEAM team’s collaboration with the D-school in many ways epitomises the essence of design thinking: recognising and leveraging the knowledge, skills and resources of others in a mutually beneficial way. We hope to maintain our close ties into the future. 

Clare Searle

Deputy Head Academics and Innovation