A City Re-Designed Using Design Thinking

Dublin City

A City Re-Designed Using Design Thinking 

Every time I travel anywhere in the world, especially in India, most of our modern cities show up as mad and messy spaces of chaos and confusion, polluted and populated in equal measure, lacking much thought or theme in their development. Whether its a humble pedestrian footbridge or a gigantic airport, an road intersection or a shopping mall, as a Design Thinker I am always hit by the apparent lack of design or thought that went into so many of them.

What can happen if a city, reeling from the recession and trying to rediscover its mojo, decides to innovate and try something totally new to design its spaces?

Dublin did. And how!

Image taken in the streets of Dublin
Image taken on the streets of Dublin

The Problem:

Ireland, one of ‘PIIGS’ economies, found the Great Recession hard to handle. During the heydays of the development boom, Clongriffin, on the north fringe of Dublin, was supposed to have a population of 30,000 to 40,000, with all the communal facilities they would need.

In July 2003, Dublin City Council had granted planning permission for a mixed-use development to be called “Clongriffin at Grange Road, Donaghmede now forming part of the Northern Fringe Development (from Clongriffin to Belmayne). Management plans were completed in 2004 and the development, comprising houses and apartments, started in 2005 and was planned to have educational, retail and service facilities, including a multi-screen cinema.

But construction ground to a halt when the bubble burst, leaving the area’s residents high and dry. The Dublin City Council considered many traditional — and expensive — revitalization projects, but its leadership saw a need for an injection of novelty.

And they tried Design Thinking!

Design Thinking | Creativity & Innovation At Work

Learning League
Excerpts from the talk ‘DESIGN THINKING CREATIVITY & INNOVATION AT WORK: FOR LEARNING AND FOR BUSINESS’ delivered by Rituparna Dasgupta, Global Talent & Development Leader, Intuit, at Learning League 4 (26th July 2019)

Design thinking is revolutionizing the way Companies are reforming and reshaping their business models in this digital driven economy. From hard core manufacturing companies to the new age technology companies have adopted Design as a practice and restructured their course on their Business journeys.

The rise of start-ups in India and changes in the work environment have shown a serious inclination towards Design as a strong practice in these millennial companies like Swiggy, PayTm etc. 

Rituparna Dasgupta, Global Talent & Development Leader at Intuit in one of her talks at a Design Thinking event held at UBQT Design Thinking School shared her experiences and journey in implementing Design Thinking. Here, is her approach to deploy design, if your organization is looking forward to adopt Design Thinking as a problem solving practice.

Rituparna Dasgupta Global Leader at Intuit talking at an event called Learning League hosted by Ubqt Design Thinking School
Rituparna Dasgupta Global Leader at Intuit talking at an event called Learning League hosted by Ubqt Design Thinking School

Start at the top:

In the Business world , new Tech stars like Google , Facebook and Netflix have dethroned top performing traditional industries that existed before the digital era. The leadership of these Organizations has adopted new methods to unleash the creativity of their employees to bring changes in the lives of billions of people. 

Ritu asked: “Where is the neck on a bottle?”

Some of us guessed it right, yes at the top.  If you are looking at building a Human centric design, starting at the Top with Leadership is absolutely critical.  Boot camps in Human Centred Design methodologies help the Executive leadership in every department from customer service to finance to experiment, understand the importance of framing the right problem before the solutions, thinking broad before narrowing down to critical few. The C-suite leaders are most critical, because they’re usually the ones with the authority to take an organisation in new directions.


Starting at the Top is important, but don’t stop there, make it catchy, bring it to all levels. Introduce it to the fresh graduates and employees coming into the organisation. 

Sharing the experiences from her previous organisation Rituparna, strongly believes in collaborating with a Learning academy or partner with a firm who are experts in the field of Human Centred design to initiate the design thinking process.

She emphasises on this point, because inside the organisation, the more we are familiar with a situation, the more we take it for granted. An external partner often helps us see different perspectives in a familiar situation.


Blend in big and small projects, go for some quick wins in the beginning but also have a long-term goal for the organisation by framing the objective that needs to be achieved in the near future as a challenge . Then work on smaller project that connects to the main objective of the company. 

Ritu advocates giving opportunities and platforms to employees to practice and develop their secondary skills that compliments Human Centric Design. 

Come up with creative learning spaces in the organisations like opening up digital labs, creative learning pods etc. these go a long way in adopting new mindsets. By choosing a day of the week or few hours in a week, employees can be given time for exploring new skills or work on team projects building prototypes. We cant think of Design Thinking as something separate that people need to learn. It needs to be treated like everyday life and blended into everything that we do.

Never stop Learning attitude

She concludes by saying that “to see the results of Design Thinking, patience is key. Our organisations are diverse often a complex mix of people. Each have their own pace in learning to adapt to new shift in mindsets. Trust the process and go with it, results certainly comes.”

References : 

Excerpts from interview with Rituparna Dasgupta Global Talent & Development Leader at Intuit.


The picture contains our participants working on project prototype and testing


How are design thinking courses framed?  When we receive queries from clients asking us to conduct Design Thinking training, we ask them why they want to do it.

What’s the need, how and why are they looking at Design Thinking, what’s the current environment and culture of the organisation…


And we get two types of responses, based on which we propose the best way forward.

If the client just wants an overview of Design Thinking, what it is, how it works and what it can do, we have 2-hour ‘Design Dive’ workshops to 2-day ‘DT101’ programmes that they can consider.

However, if the client is looking for something bigger, we ask them to pause. If the agenda is to change mindsets and bring in a human-centered approach to business, build capability to find the right problems, and create the right products with an attitude to experiment and learn rapidly, we tell them that a training programme just won’t cut it.

Training programmes and REAL change

For the last 12 years we have been in the training & development space. And discovered one irrefutable truth which every honest training professional will agree with – that just 1 or 2 days of training rarely make the desired impact when it comes to real learning and sustainable change. Sure, we inspire thinking, introduce tools and techniques and instigate action. But more often than not, in the face of existing (read legacy) cultures, systems and mindsets, the takeaways evaporate quickly under BAU delivery pressures.

Our experience in the last 8 years of conducting Design Thinking workshops around the world is no different. We have seen, repeatedly, that while we have moved participants tremendously in the classroom and received the customary excellent feedback (and extended contracts), the participants have often struggled to translate the learning into action.

After thousands of hours of working with 40+ clients, I for one have no qualms saying this: a short Design Thinking (or what is stylishly called Design Doing these days) workshop by itself will not change realities on the ground. It will not foster innovation, inspire curiosity, build empathy, and lead to better products and services for people.

It needs more than that.

Imagine you are out of your depth

Imagine the situation that if you are a HR, finance, sales or design professional attending a training programme, and you are suddenly asked to come up with and apply engineering and coding skills to create solutions. Skills that you lack. I am sure you will struggle, maybe fail.

Now imagine a technology professional who has been always asked to write code and create software to suddenly go out and do empathy research, to listen, observe, question, empathize, generate insights and so on. Stuff that he has never been asked to do before. Once again, the chances of success are low.

It can be scary, frustrating in fact, and as we see in fast moving business environments, difficult to sustain. The result: learnings are abandoned, forgotten.

Because it’s hard to change. To change entrenched beliefs and behaviors, carefully built through years of experience and exposure over just 16 hours. Biases, delivery pressures, established ways of doing things, and lack of leadership motivation to change all pile up against implementation of Design Thinking, and hinder results.

One cannot pick up completely different skills in randomly designed programmes, overnight change their mindset and thinking and adopt new ways of seeing things.

We have to acknowledge this – that if we are serious about Design Thinking to stick, we have to first build capabilities that can support the journeys.

Design Thinking as a Development Journey

In the last 4 years, our success has come from convincing clients that learning and change can happen only through sustained efforts. And this means investment of time and money beyond the tick-in-the-box training programme, to what comes before and after. We have to acknowledge that learning can’t magically happen without creating the environments that support learning and implementation.

Our strong experience in leadership training at The Painted Sky has helped us create the right mixes and blends that work . We have augmented Design Thinking journeys for clients with other learning inputs, to create the right skills BEFORE and AFTER the programmes.

We have conducted various supporting programmes like

  • Emotional Intelligence programmes to help participants understand biases, appreciate mindsets, explore the reasons behind behaviors,
  • Listening & Questioning skills workshops to conduct better Empathy Research, since we know that this is where participants struggle the most,
  • Story-Telling programmes to capture and structure and present data in the right way as User Stories, to derive the nuances and generate insights (and frame problems),
  • Stakeholder Management sessions to understand the interests and needs of sponsors, influencers and other key people in the organisation,
  • Influence & Execution programmes to build awareness of how to design and pitch prototypes and POCs better for greater success.

And we do this not as consultants but learning and mentoring partners: we are not another design firm that picks up a mandate from a client and delivers an outcome for them.

Through a mix of training programmes (the above plus a 2-day Design Thinking boot camp that is a must to set context and give an overview), mentoring sessions, reviews and assessments, we partner clients to reach three objectives:

  1. come up potent and tangible problem statements that need to be solved,
  2. build on the best ideas and solutions to create POCs and MVPs, and
  3. most importantly, build capability in Design Thinking among participants that they can practice in future, across projects.

Thanks to this approach we have had great success. While many excellent product and service ideas and solutions have emerged from the extended programmes, we have seen how participants have transformed from tactical to strategic thinkers, developing greater abilities to understand and appreciate customer issues and come up with truly innovative ideas that work.


So that’s what we propose to clients looking to bring about true transformation – to go beyond the obvious, the feel-good programmes, and dive deeper on the extended journeys that lead to best results.

To succeed in Design Thinking, companies must understand that they have to built the right skills and attitudes for Design Thinking to work. They have to go beyond Design Thinking.

OUR CLIENTShttps://www.ubqtdesignschool.com/clients/ 



DT-101: The Essential Design Thinking Bootcamp

“Design is too important to be left to Designers.” Raymond Loewy’s famous statement was echoed by Tim Brown in his famous TED Talk on Design Thinking.

Our Design Thinking boot camp dives deep into the core values of design thinking. From Pepsi to Samsung, Honeywell to Accenture, Infosys to bank of America, companies around the world are adopting Design Thinking.
However, in many organsations we work with, Design Thinking is still limited to those whose jobs revolve more obviously around Design.

Product or UX Designers, primarily. And this, unfortunately, limits the access of Design Thinking exposure to the vast majority of employees, who can make a lot of difference to their work, to customers and to their organisations if they apply the principles and the processes.

At The Painted Sky, and now at UBQT Design Thinking School, we have pushed the envelop of decoding and demystifying Design Thinking so that everyone can apply the powerful process to get more innovative results. And we want to take Design Thinking wider, by conducting best-in-class Open programs at prices that are affordable to all!

Our next DT101 Design Thinking Bootcamp aims to do just that. Facilitated by Ms.Monishita Bathija, who brings two decades of experience with companies like Deutsch Bank, Sabre Corporation, and Fidelity Investments where she led the innovation charter, the 2-day program is the most potent and powerful introduction to Design Thinking.

This exciting and engaging program offers the BEST OPPORTUNITY to learn and apply Design Thinking in a series of simulations! Over 2 days

  • Learn and Apply Empathy Research to Discover User Needs,
  • Learn and Apply new age tools and Techniques to find the Right Problems to Solve,
  • Learn and Apply the most Innovative Brainstorming techniques to generate Ideas,
  • Learn and Apply experiential and Agile Prototyping and Test methods

At the end, get CERTIFIED in this powerful process, build your Empathy Research, Innovation and UX design capabilities

Don’t miss – register now for the most exciting program, run by the best faculty

  • Dates: 25th-26th October
  • Timing: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM both days
  • Venue: UBQT Design Thinking School
  • Fees: Rs.15,000 + 18% GST (Rs.17,700). Avail a 20% discount by registering before 20th October!
  • Register at: https://ubqtdesignschool.com/events/dt-101-design-thinking-bootcamp/
  • Or please call us at +91 80 25429311, +91 99025 26501, +91 74066 10475

LXD: Learning Experience Design

10th-11th October, conducted by Anirban Bhattacharya

The Program:
What is the future of Learning and Development? For the last 12 years, we have worked extensively with you, and have been inspired by your motivation and diligence to bring the best learning experiences to your employees. And we have often encountered some key questions linked to the those journeys: “How can we make Learning Experiences more meaningful for our employees?” “How can we help Employees learn better?” “How can build a Learning Culture in our company?”

To explore these and other such questions, and look at these challenges through the lens of Design Thinking, we will be running a program on 24th-25th September at UBQT Design Thinking School.

Target Audience:
Called “LXD: Learning Experience Design”, this program is exclusively for Corporate HR and L&D folks wanting to discover the right problems before finding the best solutions. And get a chance to network with your peers over two days of experiential and exciting learning.

This program is conducted by Anirban, my colleague and co-founder at The Painted Sky and the man behind UBQT Design Thinking School. As you know, Anirban has been synonymous with Design Thinking in India, having pioneered trainings in the space back in 2010. Anirban studied Design Thinking at Darden, and has been facilitating programs and projects for clients across the world for the last 8 years. He’s done over 3000 hours of training and mentoring in the space, and has often worked with HR to explore challenges as diverse as Employee Experience to Onboarding, D&I to Rewards. And Learning Experience has been a key area of work for him…

  • Dates: 10th-11th October
  • Venue: UBQT Design Thinking School (https://goo.gl/maps/kQK52YH6ssy)
  • Facilitator: Anirban Bhattacharya (https://www.linkedin.com/in/anirbanbhattacharya/)

Please let me know if you need any further inputs.

So, do join us for a fantastic journey to discover the future of L&D.

After 12 years of you hosting us, give us a chance to host you!

Please register at https://ubqtdesignschool.com/events/l-x-d-learning-experience-design/, or reach out to me.