Design Thinking & Innovation – Where Do You Start?

In today’s context, my perspective about design thinking and innovation would begin with an architect’s routine life, every day of an architect starts with thoughts of design for his projects and clients and ends with same thoughts.  We all aspire to deliver our best, at least I always have a feeling that my projects should be talked about for their design innovation, I should win awards, my clients should give my highest recommendation to his friends,  people should walk into my studio for the innovations that I do in my design,  my studio should be flooded with projects and I should be able to choose from them, everyone here reading this would like to be the next big Architect like some of my inspirations from our field, ‘Zaha Hadid’, ‘Charles Correa’, ‘Renzo  Piano’ Bjarke Ingels’ but does this happen?

Not always is the answer, and somewhere it’s because of our attitude, I mean in terms of knowledge and exposure we are fully equipped, but still why can’t most of us be in the best 10% of our fraternity (this is a generalized statement for a fraternity at large)?  The answer is in the title “Fill in the blanks”

In the Image - Zaha Hadid & Bjarke Ingels

What is this ‘Blank’ and what do we need to Fill? The blank is why there are only a few who make it big and rest sit in the audience and admire them, why can’t most of us achieve that level of innovation? Charles Correa never did the parametric design, Frank Lloyd Right never used fancy shapes to get noticed in the arena of Architecture Globally, their approach was simple, handling contextual parameters carefully and sensitively, their buildings need not be steel or fancy facades to be noticed, look at Kanchenjunga.

In the Image - (L) Kanchanjunga Apartments / Charles Correa & (R) California Academy of Sciences / Renzo Piano

The building is still a landmark in the skyline of Kemps Corner, It is still modern and ageless and at the same time a very much Indian Building, though Antilia is mightier and bold and higher and fancy and swanky, “Simple is beautiful”. 

We cannot rely on excuses of budget and material, a master’s touch to it, can also become iconic, look at buildings designed by Ar. Nari Gandhi, some of his projects are world heritage sites, he was referred as “Saint of Architecture”. His projects came from the ground, he used natural boulders in his masonry style, the entire approach of looking at the project was different, you visit his projects with the conventional mindset and you get a shock of life seeing the way the buildings appear; it’s simply beyond the general perception of spaces.

In the Image - (L) Chris Loyn's inspiration: Fallingwater, Pennsylvania & (R) Moon Dust Residence, Madh Island

He did few projects but all of them were loved by most of our fraternity because of the unconventional thought process involved in it, the detailing, the transition of spaces, the organic-ness, and the character it possesses.

Then what is it that is stopping us to have it in our approach? I mean we should be so well equipped by our skills as architects in today’s competitive world that we should seek versatility and it comes from exposure and knowledge.

As an architect I have designed a palace with a classical palatial style and at the same time a grounded mud house in a farm, I have designed an international headquarters office for Shell Petrochemicals with a footprint of 500000 sq. ft with a high budget, and at the same time done a relatively small and low budget co-working space; I have received accolades and awards for most of them, as an Architect, I constantly keep asking myself and pushing myself in my creative endeavors to try all indiums and styles of architecture and interiors with utmost research and sensitivity knowing all the risks involved, without fear of failure.

We should seek versatility and it comes from exposure and knowledge.

As I keep getting answers through my pursuits literally or through research, I Fill them on the Blank slate of mind, keep doing this until I am satisfied and then practice with the best-refined thoughts.

Now is the best time to do it, as we have great free time with us, at least most of us, there is no professional pressure, moral pressure or any other pressure which is forcing us to do something and we are forced to take a full stop. Now what can we do with this situation which we are completely unfamiliar of from 1978 which is the year of my birth to 2020 that is today, I  haven’t seen such a situation in my life, a lockdown where you are forced to the confinement of your house and not allowed to go out, this results in closure of works, closure of sites, closure of malls, closure of markets, closure of cinema halls, only hospitals medical shops and shops with daily basic necessities open, and we have enough time for ourselves to keep our mind entertained and enhanced.

“How can this entertainment and enhancement lead to innovation?”  These questions lead us to answers and these answers when filled on the empty slate of mind can result in innovation. Let’s go back to the 2Es, Entertainment and Enhancement, yes art, creative writing, sketching, painting, reading all these activities have both entertainment and enhancement, it can be an entertaining hobby and lead to enhancement of creativity and knowledge, which leads us to innovation. Can we be students again? Can we practice creative pursuits on paper on a computer without attaching purpose to it? Can we just draw or sketch or visualize something to make our mind happy, and if we can, let’s do it! So many times, when we see presentations of other architects and get awestruck by their sketches, or their presentation graphics, can we also have the same skills?

Why not! It’s a highway to design thinking; Instantly take a sketchbook and start sketching and don’t worry about the responsibility and burden of social media or how many likes and comments you are going to get, at the first place it’s also not compulsory that you need to be an expert when you post anything anywhere or it’s not mandatory to post at all, so chill, relax and enjoy and be happy about attempting something which you would not, when you were busy in the grind of daily routine.

Also today, because of the internet we can have so much to read, the software’s that we don’t know otherwise, I don’t know  Photoshop, the other day I asked one of my employees to share the link with me related to the same and now I am on it, learning it, also over the period of years of practice I have travelled many places in the world one thing I always bring home from these destinations is books, I had been to Japan two years back and on the way home I got books of Tadao Ando, I got them as they had his original signatures, but could not read them, now I have enough time to read them, sitting here, I am taken en route to his life journey from a  professional boxer at the age of 25 years to a Pritzker award winner and a self-taught architect.

In the image - Tadao Ando a Japanese self-taught architect

He could achieve so much in his life because of constant innovation and application of it. He says travel has helped him a lot to be what he is today, so many people that you come across in life have so many wonderful inspirational stories, what we need to do is to grasp the best out of them and reading can give you something which can transform your perceptions time and again, so just un-dust the knowledge treasure that was otherwise lying on the shelf of your office or home, now is the time to have best of it.

There are some amazing documentaries, talks of stalwarts and legendary professionals from all walks of life, listen to them on internet, and while doing so if you love writing make notes of the daily treasure you have garnered in the conquest of perceiving your 2Es, all this will add to the abundance of knowledge and positivity.  

Now the choice is yours, either to keep regretting about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow by getting sucked into negative media or creating innovation by keeping yourself fresh and positive involved in 2Es, the choice is yours. For me, every day has become a boon and I am getting a new lease of life because of the 2Es that I practice in the form of art, reading and writing.

Half of the blanks that I could fill for today are done, but what about the blanks that tomorrow has to offer, oh yes “How will I be the next big name”?

Now the choice is yours, either to keep regretting about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow by getting sucked into negative media or creating innovation by keeping yourself fresh and positive involved in 2Es, the choice is yours.

The names that I took earlier to set an example, the great legends Charles  Correa or Frank Lloyd Right they both believed in two common factors that made them legends, the two were ‘Innovation and Intellect’, out of which they derived creativity, which resulted in iconic architectural projects with a happy  client, great goodwill and respect and abundance in life. All the greats of today’s world are great because of their innovative thinking approach to find an unconventional out of the box, best answer.

In the Image - (L) Jack Ma, (M) Bill Gates, (R) Jeff Bezos

Computer and software wouldn’t have been part of our daily lives if there was no Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, there won’t have been Amazon and Ali Baba if there was no Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos, no Tesla if there was no Elon Musk; all these individuals are not just successful entrepreneurs or kings of business empires that rule the Forbes list but are amazing innovators and highly innovative creators.

In the Image - (L) Steve Jobs & (R) Elon Musk

Humans are the most brilliant creation of this universe, we have created today’s world from nothing and nothing can stop us, this is just a pause, it’s like a wait at a hyperloop station.

In the Image - Hyperloop which is being planned between Mumbai & Pune.

The idea of creating something which changes the perspective of how the world thinks, our mind must be a blank slate and we should have the ability to fill it with thoughts and practices which cannot just bring comfort to our lives but bring abundance to the world and fill our heart with a sense of pride.

  1. Great write up gautam. I always say “Believing is Happening” and yes “If you are Blessed, Be a Blessing”.
    Thanks for sharing. Do what u enjoy and Enjoy what u do. Bye take care.
    School buddy

  2. Thanks Snehal my school buddy and Manmeet my college buddy, I am humbled by your words, still a long way to go travelling through the journey of life.

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