The global economy is facing an unprecedented crisis. Entire industries are pivoting to remain viable as societies redefine how they should operate.
As a nexus point of global trade and travel, the UAE is certainly not immune to these changes, and virtually every sector of our economy is facing challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Rebuild on strengths
The entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovation that has propelled the UAE to its enviable position as world leader in aviation, commerce, and trade gives the country a quantitative edge in responding to this crisis. Instead of reacting to the news glumly, local businesses spurred by the Government are beginning to see these profound changes as opportunities instead of setbacks.
Put simply, innovative solutions were implemented for unique challenges for decades… and now we will do what we do best. Innovation happens, but to ensure the best solutions rise to the top, we need to employ design thinking.
When the UAE charted a bold course to become a centre of global trade, similar steps were taken regarding design thinking. Through smart investment in infrastructure, we are now home to the world’s largest airport and some of the largest ports on the planet.
Over the last decade, we have moved our ambitions away from physical projects such as ports to focus on building a viable knowledge economy.
As we emerge from this pandemic, we will need to focus more efforts on our digital infrastructure and the ongoing work of our knowledge economy.
Government takes centrestage
Before we unpack how design thinking will help us rise to this challenge, let’s consider the role of government. “The next phase will see a long-term stimulus plan to speed up recovery and encourage investments in digital economy,” the UAE Economy Minister Sultan Al Mansoori said in a statement. “Clearly, what the UAE committed into its digital and telecom networks has paid off during the pandemic lockdown. The future is about building on that.”
Through a top-down leadership, impressive investment in digital infrastructure, and a willingness to engage the innovative spirit that sits at the core of Emirati identity, the country is ready to face the challenge COVID-19 has created.
The components involved in building our knowledge economy will be critical for these strategies. But how do we integrate the ideas into one framework? That’s where design thinking comes in.
When we partnered with Dubai 10X to consider ways to amplify their approach to exponential thinking, we looked to design thinking as a critical tool. This approach allowed us to apply design thinking to current challenges facing government entities. We unlocked fresh approaches for new processes, services or products that would radically transform their value proposition and advance Dubai’s global positioning. Dubai’s burgeoning reputation as a leader in cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence is a testament to the impact of this form of design thinking.
Through collaboration as well as prototyping, solutions are found. Design thinking creates a controlled environment where we can quickly learn from failure to arrive at new solutions.
We have the right physical and digital infrastructure in place. We just need to approach it in a new way. Once those changes are identified, we can move swiftly to prototyping solutions for the post-pandemic landscape. This will require participation from all sectors of society, but through the proper application of design thinking, we can realize the power of the new tools at our disposal.
That innovation happens now.
- Danish Farhan is CEO of Xische & Co.