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How to own a positive mindset and create a better world

We recently asked a group of college students what they thought the future will be like, and their answers were quite surprising.
 
“Human nonexistence. So many people are living without basic needs like housing, food, and clean water. If we continue to turn a blind eye, eventually we will wipe ourselves out.”
 
“Global warming destroys all nature, and the only way to see grass and trees is through VR.”
 
“The future will have AI and robots—nothing else.”
 
It all sounds quite depressing. Could this really be all that lies ahead? We don’t think so. We believe that we all have the ability to influence the future and create a better world. There’s real power in shifting to a positive mindset. And if we focus on altruistic activities, we have the potential to ensure these distressing predictions don’t come true.
 

Learn more about how you can make a difference in the world, and even have a chance to earn money for your winning design ideas. 

 
We can’t imagine a better way for design and engineering students to change the way they think than to employ the process of design thinking. Design thinking is a solution-based method to solving problems. It helps reframe problems, and the human-centric approach guides us through identifying the best solution. So why not apply the same principals to help move you away from a negative funk and onto owning a positive, productive mindset?

 

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The five phases of the design thinking process as outlined in the Principles of Design Thinking course. 

To make the shift, start with a negative thought and make that the problem you want to solve. For example, let’s use the first worry identified above. The problem to solve is: Many people are living without basic needs.
 
Now, let’s take that problem through the design thinking framework. The first step is empathizing and understanding. Conduct research. Identify the geological locations and societies that need the most help. Learn as much as you can about what’s already being done. Maybe there are opportunities to join an effort already in action, or perhaps you can identify a need that hasn’t gotten much attention yet. Immerse yourself in the problem, and see it from all sides. Understand what it feels like to be a person living in that society. Try to see the problem from a completely different angle so you don’t miss any opportunities.
   

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Trying to solve a big problem? Coming up with various possible solutions can lead you to a smaller, more manageable goal. Image courtesy of KickStart International.

Next, define the problem. Is it too broad? Are you really able to make a big enough impact on your own? If it’s a big problem and you simply don’t know how to start solving it, iterate to come up with a smaller, more achievable goal and make that your first step. Instead of trying to provide basic needs for everyone (which is a monumental task already being tackled by many charities and organizations around the world), you could focus in on a particular part of the problem. For instance, many refugees do not have secure shelters. By redefining the problem, you can tackle it in smaller, more manageable chunks.
 
With your problem defined, it’s time to iterate on possible solutions. Let’s say you come up with an inexpensive, durable shelter using local materials. Then consider how you might take it one step further. Can you make the shelter portable? Would it still be strong enough to withstand harsh weather conditions, yet light enough to pack up and carry to a new location?
 
Once you have an idea you are excited about, design and test it to make sure it works. Create a prototype and make notes on what’s successful and what could be better. Go back and refine the design some more and then test it again.

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The Design for Social Impact challenge lets you compete to earn $1,000 and recognition from industry pros.
 

Finally, find a way to get your solution into the hands of the people who need it. Participate in design or skills challenges that seek solutions for social impact like Design for Social Impact. Present your idea to the Autodesk® Foundation, which offers a software donation program and related support to help scale your project to have the greatest impact. Imagine for a moment how that would feel. You are doing your part to help eliminate the future of these negative prognostications—and it has been proven that focusing on altruistic activities benefits not only the people you’ve helped, it brings joy to your life as well.

Picture it. If we all took some time to focus on designing for good, we could help pave the way to a brighter future. Instead of imagining human annihilation, we can find positive ways to help everyone survive and thrive. We can make sure global warming doesn’t ruin our amazing planet so that our grandchildren and their grandchildren can enjoy nature as we do today. And, we can help design products and technology that don’t replace our jobs, but in fact help us and co-create with us, giving humans more time to do the things we love and make our world a better place for all.
 

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The power of a positive mindset can free your imagination to design a better world. 

 
New to design thinking and want to learn more or just need a refresher? Take the Principles of Design Thinking course to learn how to apply the framework in your own life to make a positive difference.