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Lebanon, Israel And The Role Design Thinking Can Have In Solving Social Problems.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on July 31, 2006

The tragedy that unfolds periodically and without fail in the Middle East is on display once again. We know the history. We know the facts. We know the emotions—fear, anger, pride, revenge. What appears to be missing is one other emotion—empathy. Understanding and feel for the “other” one. The heart and soul of design is empathy. We often talk of applying design thinking to social and political problems. If ever there was a problem that needed an empathetic approach, it is the one we see on our TV screens today. I have not a clue on how to connect the dots of war and design, conflict and empathy, but surely it is something we should ponder.

Reader Comments

David Malouf

July 31, 2006 4:09 PM

Hi Bruce,
I can't agree more with you on this issue.
A book, I'd like to point out to you that is very relevant to this topic is called "Next Jerusalem", a complilation of designers and public policy people thinking about an almost impossible task of envisioning a peaceful Jerusalem. Thought you might be interested.

Niti Bhan

July 31, 2006 7:05 PM


Your thoughts and intentions are truly worthwhile, but just my 2 rupees - empathy, I think, requires a certain degree of humility. For one has to place one's self in the other person's shoes and to do that one has to put away any feelings of 'difference'. In situations like the one you describe, there is already an element of humiliation involved, in differing degrees, on all sides involved. One wonders how to establish the sense of empathy and understanding in this kind of volatile environment. That alone becomes a 'design thinking' problem in its own right, no?

Amit Gadkari

July 31, 2006 7:57 PM

I have this thought going on in my mind to create designs in any form that convey the message of peace and truth and make them reach to the masses. You can even host art exhibitions, but, giving those designs, e.g., posters and maps free to schools and colleges so that young kids are exposed to unbiased opinions and help the kids to devlelop their own perspective without the effect of any influence can be more appealing . These problems have evolved over long period of time. I live in Mumbai, India and after the recent terrorist attacks in the city’s Suburban trains, all people here have this feeling of unanswered question, that is, how can we stop this? May be there is some creative support to reach to a solution..

Stephen Macklin

August 2, 2006 12:34 PM

All of the empathetic posters and maps will do little good when one side of the conflict teaches hate of the other to children in the classroom, and the children on the other side know nothing but fear. Fear of random missiles and suicide attacks launched by those who have learned nothing but hatred.

Posters and maps will not solve the problem of terrorism. This may just be a case where design just can't save the world.

Roy Luebke

August 2, 2006 10:08 PM

Sorry, but the issues in the middle east are based on deep religious views, with some ethnic hatred thrown in for grins.

The British started all this mess after WWI when they created Iraq and started transplanting Jewish settlers into Palestine. How do you design around the fact that a group of people had their country taken away? I'm sorry to say it, but as long as Israel is right in the middle of arab/muslim dominated geography this isn't going to end. The best option is to keep them all separated from one another, keep the weapons out and try to keep the various parties talking and learning about each other. Education is our best hope, along with reducing our dependency on oil.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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