Design Thinking Should Start in Kindergarten
August 23, 2019 | Innovation
by ExperiencePoint

In our last post, we discussed a new initiative to teach design thinking to elementary school children, and the effect those lessons might have on today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.

It’s been argued that empathy is no easy concept for millennials. Some HR managers maintain that Generation Y’s so-called entitlement mentality has created operational headaches. A common complaint is that it’s increasingly difficult to get young adults to share, listen and apologize, i.e. the behavior outlined in the New York Times bestselling book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

So what if design thinking were taught in schools as part of a foundational education?

The Indian Express recently ran an article on a school in India that taught students the principles of design thinking. The goal was to encourage kids to think independently and find imaginative solutions to life’s problems by thinking more creatively. The result might have direct applications to the workplace. Imagine if your workforce had grown up using design thinking to solve real problems?

Here’s what happened: Teachers tasked a group of eight-year-olds to use the design thinking process—empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test—to solve a real problem at their school. They chose an issue that most parents had a stake in: the morning drop-off routine was causing significant congestion outside the school.

If you’ve ever contended with rush-hour traffic, you’ll know that a recurring bottleneck is nothing to sneeze at. An additional twenty-minute delay every morning impinges on work, sleep and productivity.

Using design thinking, the students came up with a campaign called “Car Pool,” in which they encouraged older students to bike, walk or have their parents carpool them to school.

The surprising result? Twenty-eight percent of students began carpooling — that’s a huge number! — resulting in a big reduction of lines, honking and parental frustration in the morning.

As the Indian Express put it: “Design thinking helps build a growth mindset, and helps develop resilience and entrepreneurial skills that prepare students to face the real world.”


Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.