As soon as Ethan Appleby came across a mention of "design thinking" by Steve Jobs in a YouTube video a couple of years ago, he was hooked to it.
The young American went to California's Stanford University for a two-week course on design thinking, which involves an empathetic and open-ended approach to problems that are hard to define.
Mr Appleby, 28, is the director of strategic training at the risk management consultancy Good Harbor International in Abu Dhabi.
What is design thinking?
The concept was pioneered by Stanford University to inspire creativity and innovation from the bottom up. It shows how we can go about it systematically.
What are the components?
The first step is empathy or finding out the human need, second is definition or understanding what is the problem, third, brainstorming, fourth, prototyping or building the physical product, and last, testing it with the users and surveys among others.
Where can it be applied?
The concept can be applied to policy, strategies, projects as well as products. Hyatt, for instance, uses design thinking in eight of its hotels worldwide. They found people were embarrassed to ask for room service to get things like a forgotten toothbrush. So, Hyatt put in a text messaging service and drop boxes to address this.
When I was doing a design thinking project with Stanford and Jet Blue, I was at an airport in the United States and met a mother who was travelling with four children. We were on a moving walkway and she let out a big sigh of relief. She explained how the moving walkways helped her control her children who were otherwise running all around, getting distracted by the shops. This is a great example of the focus and first step of design thinking: empathy ... The insight of needing to find a way to help corral children in the already stressful environment of getting through an airport is an important one and that all the shops and eateries may actually prove a distraction.
How mature is the market in the Emirates for design thinking?
Design thinking has not yet caught on in the UAE as it has in other parts of the world - the United States, Singapore and the United Kingdom. So the challenge is to build awareness and then build its credibility. The second major challenge is getting these trainings approved at the project management and procurement levels.
What companies' employees in the UAE have you trained in design thinking?
A dozen or so agencies in the government sector as well as private sector companies, medium and large - Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Takatof, Higher Colleges of Technology.
And the future?
I want to eventually open my own company on design thinking. Hopefully by the end of this year.