Design thinking, a mindset focused on what future customers want instead of relying on past data and methods to make decisions, is a great source of differentiation for companies and is becoming increasingly important in the era of artificial intelligence, according to innovation expert Tom Kelley.

Creative mindsets are required especially since robots and algorithms are capable of doing manual, routine jobs that humans are doing today, according to Tom Kelley, a partner at global design firm IDEO and author of Creative Confidence, The Art of Innovation and The 10 Faces of Innovation.

“If you have a routine job, you’d have to be looking over your shoulder all the time for artificial intelligence,” Kelley said. “Your best defence against AI taking over your job is to be 100 per cent creative and do things that have never be done before.”

Such mindsets and approaches to problem-solving are increasingly being sought after as cities like Hong Kong strive to stay competitive and innovative in a rapidly changing technological landscape.

The Hong Kong government has worked closely with the Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) to promote design thinking and improve problem-solving and creativity, not just for businesses, but also within the government itself.

“Design thinking starts with empathy and … identifying the human need,” Kelley said.

Kelley was speaking on the sidelines of the “Unleash: Empowered by Design Thinking” campaign launch reception last week, where a series of activities planned by the HKDC in the coming six months was presented to encourage a design thinking mindset in the city.

Hong Kong has staged several design thinking workshops for more than 300 civil servants in the city, according to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau. Several of these courses will be incorporated into ongoing training programmes.

The government has also sponsored industry players to launch projects aimed at promoting design thinking among youth.

“We firmly believe that the nurturing of creativity and design thinking should begin at an early age and should take place both within and outside our education system,” Yau said in a speech at the launch.

The city joins the ranks of several others, including Singapore, to adopt the human-centric, creative mindset within the government.

In April this year, Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong urged students during a ministerial forum at the Singapore University of Technology and Design to “master the range of skills and disciplines to design, build and run tomorrow’s Singapore”, which requires a “deep understanding” of how human beings and society work.

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