Design Thinking

Sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI) is receiving increased focus, as sustainability takes a more central role in business, development, and education arenas. SOI processes typically draw from design thinking toolkits, with a focus on the user's needs and experiences. While this is an effective way to ensure that the innovation process is grounded in real, definable needs, it's also limited in its ability to place the problem in a larger societal and systemic context. This can lead to a narrow or incomplete problem definition.
A human-centered design thinking approach has been applied to a course at the MIT D-Lab on creating low-cost prosthetic and assistive devices for the developing world. Teams of students with diverse backgrounds are paired with international stakeholders and industry partners to tackle real-world prosthetic technology needs, learn the design process through interactive lectures and workshops in the classroom, and are given the opportunity to conduct testing of the prototypes generated during the semester at field sites around the globe.