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Girish Prabhu
Girish Prabhu

Co Founder and Director, Institute for Design (Led) Entrepreneurship

For many in today’s world, design success is defined by innovation and an ability to create something appealing that caters to end users and other stakeholders. The current framework for being Design-Driven explores Desirability (or user needs), Feasibility (or technology) and Viability (business value) using a human-centred approach such as Design Thinking. A typical Design Thinking approach to develop concepts starts with Empathetic Research and a very iterative human-centred process. According to the Design Management Institute, design-conscious companies like Apple, Coca Cola, and Walt Disney see 10-year returns yielding 2.19 times (219%) that of the S&P 500.

However this approach is flawed as it plays into human need and greed; creates efficient, fast and desirable experiences for users of products and services. It greatly contributes to the current consumerist society by crafting experiences that help sell products and services. The effect of this is very evident: global debt has increased by $57 trillion since 2007, outpacing world GDP growth; e-waste generated by every country in the world has substantially increased. In doing so, this approach ignores the significant role design should play in acting as a change agent and an ‘early warning system’ that is truly centred on human values. As a designer, we need to refocus on the fact that innovation is also about uplifting the lives of people; transformation that goes beyond ease of use and instead, is more a matter of changing mindsets and attitudes (as described by the UNDP capacity development model).
I call it Responsible Innovation. Responsible Innovation not only creates business impact but also an impact on the society and humanity. And “Design” can play a substantial role in making this happen. It is NOT only about designing solutions through product design, user experience design, service design etc, but also design of business and organisation through strategic foresighting, business model innovation & personality and team building. This approach allows designers to create desirable, feasible and viable solutions that are also responsible.
One such Responsible Design Driven Innovation approach is based on Permaculture. This approach combines a human-centred design thinking with “care and fairness”, where one cares for the people, cares for the context and also includes fair share. Elements such as responsible technology, leveraging local resources, slow implementation, supporting things on the edge and few others become important considerations in such an approach.
In 1989, Ben & Jerry’s first opposed Recombinant Bovine Growth Harmone (rBGH) used in cows, in part due to “its adverse impact on family farming.” rBGH is a genetically engineered hormone given to cows to increase their milk production and is a step in the wrong direction towards a chemically-intensive, high-tech food system that has unacceptable social and environmental costs. Ben & Jerry’s made a socially responsible decision regarding farming and dairy industries; that slowed their business growth in the US initially however provided them substantial benefits later in Europe and the US. The takeaway is that every innovator faces decisions about whether to prioritise values over profit; and responsible innovation framework allows you to achieve a balance.

To end, I recommend each of you who are designers or aspire to be designers to think about and implement Responsible Design Driven Innovation framework in your endeavours. This will not only create business impact but also a lasting impact on humanity. Through this new paradigm, you will be able to respond positively and effectively to problems in an unfamiliar context, apply new ideas, methods and ways of thinking and making, deliver creative and sustainable solutions to specific problems, and be able to consider the ethical and environmental responsibilities.

As a part of our Design Titans Jury Panel for NASSCOM Design4India Design Awards 2019, Girish Prabhu will be reviewing numerous applications and judging what good design is all about. 
Do your design-tech creations have the potential to solve wicked problems and positively impact the community? Apply for Design Awards 2019: https://design4india.in/designawards2019/
Application deadline: 22 July 2019
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