‘Design Thinking’ is the buzzword in corporate world today. Design Thinking is an approach to problem solving which encourages one to look at the problem with an unencumbered brain.  It is a practice that saves us from making incorrect assumptions and helps us to see the problem more clearly, in order to provide better solutions. There is a very insightful story for conveying the gist of the what Design Thinking is and why it is so essential.  The story goes that some years ago, an incident occurred where a truck driver tried to pass under a low bridge. But he failed, and the truck was lodged firmly under the bridge. The driver was unable to continue driving through or reverse out, it caused massive traffic problems. Emergency workers were debating whether to dismantle parts of the truck or chip away at parts of the bridge. Each spoke of a solution which fitted within his or her respective level of expertise. A boy walking by and witnessing the intense debate looked at the truck, at the bridge, then looked at the road and said nonchalantly, “Why not just let the air out of the tires?” to the absolute amazement of all the specialists and experts trying to unpick the problem. When the solution was tested, the truck was able to drive free with ease. So in essence Design thinking allows us to be the little boy in our stories, who does not chip away the bridge when he only has to let out the air from the tires.

Nodes, is a Pune based Design Consultancy firm, that seeks to inculcate the design thinking approach in design activities on a nation-wide scale. I have interacted with Prajakta Kulkarni who started Nodes in 2016. In the past couple of years they have been working on a nation-wide educational initiative called as Nodes Education. This initiative is oriented towards making Design Thinking education as a part of any professional stream of studies in India by working with Universities and Government Initiatives.  Prajakta feels that the Design Thinking approach is essential for students in every stream be it English, Engineering or Architecture because, Design Thinking is not a process to design better products but to design better solutions.

Prajakta has completed her graduation in Graphic Design from MIT Design Institute, Pune in 2012. Even before that she has been engaged in working on various projects on innovative thinking. Her very first project was Internet Literacy project with Google and Inktalks.  She has worked with  D-Labs at ISB in Hyderabad, to put in her own words with a superhero team of designers, solving business problems through design thinking. She found such environment hard to leave. But her husband Sanket encouraged her to take the leap if she so desired.

Prajakta feels that the present day education system leaves us incapable of innovative thinking and is designed in a way to generate laborers rather than independent problem solvers. She feels that the problem solving approach followed in industries today is not always rational and often leads to disastrous results. There has been a stirring of dissatisfaction against conventional teaching practices throughout the world. We are realizing now, that we have been wrong in the way we have dealt with learning so far. In such times Nodes Education is striving to improve the way of learning in India.  She says that they have observed that there were some alarming effects of the Indian Education System on most of people’s core humanistic skills. It had shun curiosity and empathy among most of the people they were trying to educate. At this point she began an extensive research into design literacy among Indians, and it’s inclusion in the higher education system. She found that, there was a greater need than she had anticipated. Hence, they have set on a path to change this so as to enable students to build their own careers through their own solutions.

When I asked Prajakta about the challenges she has faced she says, “The stagnancy in the Indian Education system due to bureaucracy, where the system stands in the way of a even a greater future for the students of this nation is frustrating. These are the places where it feels like you are standing in front of large brick wall, that can’t be crossed. Luckily, we’re not just another brick in it, we have learnt a way to seep through the gaps like the root of a banyan tree.”

Quality Synthesis

Today, Nodes is associated with Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore(IIMB), Savitri Bai Phule Pune University, National Institute of Fashion Design, Mumbai(NIFT), Whistling Woods International among other renowned names. She works as an adjunct faculty in IIMB for the introduction of Design Thinking courses.

In her journey her rational attitude and the spirit of not giving up easily have definitely helped her. I feel her sensitivity, that moved her by witnessing the lack of awareness of a skill that can help many and her sincere effort to enable the new generation to acquire the same is admirable. This underlying belief and desire that with efforts one can change the situation for better is a very great strength.

As always, I will be back in December with a new venture or a venturist, hope to see you too……..

6 thoughts on “Nodes

  1. Hey, this time I really liked the short initial story as got involved into it, and wanted to know,what this is leading to…and then I got to know the person who is working towards it. Immersing start!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes Prachi.. the article is very well written. And all the best to Prajakta👍. We all have similar thoughts on education system. A good initiative taken..


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