As modern civilisation enters Industry 4.0, it also signifies the end of cookie-cutter solutions to solve existing problems. With new cutting-edge technologies and innovative tools created at an astounding pace, challenges can be solved through faster and smarter means, and sometimes even through solutions that save cost. No time to vacuum the house? There is an automated vacuum cleaner that can clean the house with a touch of button and even be scheduled to clean at a preferred time. Planning a drive to town and wondering what the status of traffic is? With a mobile phone app and connectivity to the Internet, it is now possible to see real-time traffic and plan a journey in almost every part of the globe.

 

These solutions to modern-day problems are the result of design thinking, a methodology to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions. The best time to learn design thinking is while still studying, and thus about 200 undergraduate students from INTI International University (IIU) in Nilai participated in the campus’ first design thinking programme, where they were tasked to design a solution and to pitch their ideas connected to current issues including poverty, clean energy, peace and justice, education and many others.

These students, who represented all disciplines and faculties at IIU, came together to form groups and were paired with a mentor from industry. Working in teams, the students learnt about the aspects of design thinking, identified which social issue they wanted to address and worked with their mentors to research their concepts and develop their ideas and solution, tasked at the same time to work on a practical, marketable prototypes.

Their mentors came from all facets of industry, including telecommunications (Digi), entrepreneurship (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre or MaGIC), transportation (Prasarana Malaysia Berhad) and tourism (St Regis Kuala Lumpur).

Upon completing their prototypes, the students then presented their ideas before a panel of industry judges, which included their pitch and a question and answer session. The judges included senior members such as Dr Amy Lim, Senior Executive Director of HLB Ler Lum Chartered Accountants; Ananda Devan, Managing Director of Sastra Education; Lim Eng Weng, Chief Executive Officer of Matrix Paradigm; Sean De Silva, Director at Pastel Events; Muizzuddin Bin Mohd Fared, Assistant Head, Environmental Preservation and Innovation Centre or EPIC; Rossuriana Hamzah, Cradle Fund Sdn. Bhd.; and Wayne Lim, Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia SME. Most notably were three judges who were also graduates of INTI – Leon Goh, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Gourmet Ingredients Sdn. Bhd.; Edison Lim, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Tag La Technology Sdn. Bhd.; and Ganesh Muren (Chief Executive Officer & Founder of Saora Industries Sdn. Bhd.

Among the systems and products pitched by the students were: –

1) An app for wheelchair users to use while selecting clothes at a departmental store
2) An app to collect food donations
3) A jacket made from recycled plastic, equipped with a GPS tracker, and
4) A medical learning skeleton model and app.

The top five teams then advanced into the final phase of the competition, where they delivered their pitch in front of a live audience comprising of INTI staff and students. The top three winners were selected through the highest number of votes cast for the most preferred solution.

 

First Prize winners consisted of Jishwaan A/L Rakupathi, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Talpur, Satish Menon A/L Suresh and Vishalliny A/P Vignesparan, who developed a solution to provide a shelter for the homeless in Kuala Lumpur. Second Prize winners consisted of Wei Jia Peng, Ruan Kaiyuan, Yow Sze Hui, Zhao Beibei and Zhao Xu who designed an English travel guide app to be used in Ganzi, China. The final Third Prize winners were made up of Goh Ling Yan, Chong Woon Khai, Hiew Choon Hoong, Hwang Shi Dong and Yeni Welliyanti for an English Language app to help secondary school students improve their language competencies.

Dr Malini Eliatamby, Chief Academic Officer of INTI International University & Colleges explained, “Design thinking is more than just problem-solving. Instead it is solution-focused and action-oriented towards creating a preferred outcome. Through design thinking, students develop diverse skills including the use of logic, imagination, intuition, and reasoning to explore and create outcomes that benefit individuals and communities. These skills are vital in the 21st century as they provide a foundation for building successful careers and the ability to use experiential learning not only in understanding an issue but also in developing practical solutions to overcome them. To add value to this programme, we focused on actual social and economic issues so that the students could apply the design thinking approach to real world problems and to motivate them to affect social change.”

“As a result,” she added, “The students developed competencies in creative thinking and communication, networked with fellow students from various faculties, gained research skills and also developed digital literacy skills, especially those groups that opted to develop online or mobile based solutions.”

Associate Professor Phawani A. Vijayaratnam, Director of IIU’s Centre of Liberal Arts and Languages (COLAL) concluded, “Through this programme, students not only had the opportunity to learn from influential leaders in the industry, but deep dived into those issues that affect the world around them. The programme further opened up opportunities such as internships and future collaborations between the students and industry partners, who were impressed with the quality of work presented. We hope that through this exposure to social issues, coupled with the competencies they learnt in research, presentation skills, teamwork and the ability to view challenges critically, the students will continue to be socially-conscious and will work towards achieving positive outcomes, both in their professional lives as well as their engagement within communities. All innovations begin with a spark of an idea, and with proper guidance, these innovations may become solutions to solve current social problems and to improve the quality of life.”

In reinventing education to address competencies and ideas beyond the classroom, programmes such contribute to INTI’s outstanding graduate outcomes, including 99% of students being employed within six months of graduating, 83% receiving higher salaries than the market average, while 43% are employed even before graduating.