Design Stories​

A Step Towards Boundaryless Thinking: Making Design Thinking A Culture in A Leading University

First initiative of its kind in scaling the concept of Design Thinking across departments in SRM Institute of Science & Technology

The fundamentals of development start from within an individual and from within the community. This trigger for transformation starts at the mindset level. Thus, ‘thinking’ becomes a trigger for any change.

Such transformation at the level of one’s mind requires a conscious and disciplined effort that is supported by the ecosystem through unique and sustained initiatives. This is true for any organization across any industry. However, when it comes to traditional domains, such as academia, such initiatives become especially difficult calling for deeper and more sustained efforts towards bringing a culture change (stemming from the mindset transformation in every student and academician).

SRM Institute of Science & Technology believes in questioning traditional mores. It believes that Design Thinking is am imperative skill irrespective on the route a student pursues. Be it an entrepreneurial venture, Research or getting into the industrial workforce, the university believes that introducing its students into Design Thinking will help them professionally and personally. However, a foundation for this is necessary – the foundation of a fertile mind. This is where the Design The Thinking® program comes in. It is at the core of initiating or accelerating a sustained change in an individual and in an organisation.

Design The Thinking® Program: What is it about?

The Design The Thinking® Faculty Development Program (FDP) aims at evangelising Design Thinking with an academic flavour. The purpose of this FDP series is taking a step in creating a culture change in academic institutions, beginning with the Faculty.


The Design The Thinking® program not only introduces the concept of Design Thinking to the participants, but it also provides an opportunity to use various tools, frameworks and methodologies to use Design Thinking as a human-centric, future focused problem solving approach – some of which includes critical academic problems.

What is unique about the program is its emphasis on focusing on the most important aspect of Design Thinking – the Design Mind. The School of Design Thinking’s approach is in two parts. The first is on Design The Thinking® – proprietary approach that emphasises the need to understand what it takes to be a Design Thinker and then to look into problems through “boundaryless thinking”. This calls for a Mindset Transformation. The second part is the introduction to its unique Design Thinking process and associated tools and methodologies.

When SRMIST adopted this approach it was clear in the outcome, which is two-fold and in two phases. First, train faculty as the key proponents and evangelists of Design Thinking in the university campuses. It is important for them to be introduced to the concept and sufficiently trained. Consequently over a four-year period, 165 trained faculty have been trained. They are now designated as Master Trainers in Design Thinking and will take this forward to over 8000 students of the BTech and MTech programs of the University as a mandatory Credit Course (Phase Two). After an intensive three-day Faculty Development Program and evaluation the faculty members are considered ready to be awarded the Certification. Taking this forward, the faculty will enhance the skill, capability and focus of the students to look at all opportunities and challenges from a different perspective and apply Design Thinking to find the right solutions and make it a way of life. In parallel, the program also equips the faculty members to leverage Design Thinking in their lives.

The second outcome is on Syllabus and Pedagogy Design. The program has equipped the faculty to take a relook and, consequently, reassess the way various subjects’ are designed and taught to students. Design Thinking has immense potential to improve education from both perspectives – Teaching and Learning.

The genesis of this approach

In 2019, SoDT had anchored a unique three-day Design The Thinking® Faculty Development Program for a batch of 25 faculty members. The impact of this session on the faculty’s way of thinking and approaching pedagogy resulted in SRMIST, Intellect and SoDT signing the MOU in February 2020 with the aim to take Design Thinking across all campuses, departments, faculties and students of SRMIST. Since then, SoDT has anchored six batches of faculty members across various campuses, departments, and specialisations with an average of 25-30 participants in each batch. 165 faculty members have actively participated in the program.

Culmination of sustained effort

On Tuesday, 11 July 2023, the Design The Thinking® Faculty Development Program Convocation ceremony of the Faculty of SRM Institute of Science & Technology (SRMIST) was held to certify and recognize the efforts of the university faculty. The Convocation highlights the graduation of over 165 faculty members of SRMIST earning them the position of ‘Master Trainer’, empowering them to take Design Thinking to the student community.


During the convocation ceremony, Mr. Arun Jain, CMD Intellect Design Arena and Founder of School of Design Thinking said, “Design Thinking drives deep differentiation in one’s approach to design new solutions or to solve societal problems across multiple domains. I am pleased that the School of Design Thinking has partnered with SRMIST to bring about change in the thinking of students through their certified faculties.  For the first time in the country, we are witnessing a premier institute embarking on a mission that is on par with global academic standards when it comes to scale in mindset transformation.”

Prof. C. Muthamizhchelvan, VC, SRMIST expressed, “We, at SRMIST, are at the forefront of many strategic initiatives with the government, industry and other entities. Through and beyond academics, we work on trying to solve larger problems that beset our nation and society. I firmly believe that Design Thinking, as a human-centric approach to solving real-world problems, is a catalyst in aiding our approach to work on societal issues. I am glad that through the School of Design Thinking, we have been able to enhance the capabilities of our Faculty and make a lasting impact in the lives of the students.

Prof. C. Muthamizhchelvan, Vice Chancellor of SRM Institute of Science & Technology and Mr Arun Jain, Chairman & Managing Director, Intellect Design Arena Ltd and Founder School of Design Thinking, led the Convocation ceremony, awarding certificates to the participating faculty members. The ceremony also witnessed the Release of the ‘Faculty Adoption Manual’, a ready reckoner for the faculty and the ‘Student Workbook’ to gauge students’ understanding and application of Design Thinking. These publications attempt to bring algorithms in the mammoth exercise of taking Design Thinking to students across departments.

The ceremony was graced by the presence of Dr Anbu Rathinavel, Chief Design Officer, Intellect Design Arena, Co-founder & Head, School of Design Thinking, Dr S. Ponnusamy, Registrar, SRM Institute of Science & Technology and Dr Shantanu Patil, Associate Director, Directorate of Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

During the program, Dr Anbu Rathinavel, Co-founder & Head, School of Design Thinking shared his thoughts. “Design Thinking has immense potential in creating a positive impact between teachers and students – especially in the arena of teaching and learning. At the School of Design Thinking, we have evolved a new approach to bring design thinking as pedagogy in order to bring about mindset change in faculties and students at the fundamental level.  I am very happy that the senior faculties at SRMIST have adopted this strength of Design Thinking, beyond a mere course, to explore the innate potential of the students and to create engaging learning experiences.”

The Convocation event was also graced by the presence of Deans, Heads of Departments, Professors, other esteemed academicians of the University, dignitaries from Intellect Design Arena and the faculty of the School of Design Thinking.