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  • 11.05.15

Design Thinking Comes To Kids In This Cute Board Game

But should we really teach kids this branded style of problem-solving so young?

To critics, design thinking is both flawed and outdated. To evangelists, design thinking has only just begun. But to kids? It’s a new card game on Kickstarter called Khandu ($33), by the studio Seven Thinkers.

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For those who aren’t familiar, design thinking is essentially a methodology to problem solving that’s meant to mimic the way designers operate. Its exact steps can vary depending who you talk to, but it generally involves identifying a problem and considering its solutions through the lens of typical human behavior and prototyping. “Children are creative by nature, but we feel that the education that they are receiving restricts their creativity,” says Alexandra Valdivieso, founder and CEO of Seven Thinkers. “The idea of using design thinking as a learning method is based on teaching them a method to generate their own answers to the problems they will face in the future, instead of teaching them to memorize.”

Khandu presents children with four decks of cards. From the first deck, they select a problem like, “Khuna planet needs to build a new city for new people who are coming to live there. You have been hired to build the city, with buildings, streets, parks, schools, hospitals… everything needed to make people feel happy.”

The next three decks represent methods to solve the problem: Inspiration, Ideation, and Prototyping & Test. So a “Safari” card from the Inspiration deck would encourage a child to observe how people actually use the city before planning a new one. A “What If” card from the Ideation deck encourages children to brainstorm. And a “Roleplay” card from the Prototyping deck would instruct them to act out their solution to see if it might work. This last step could invite a lot of outside-the-deck creativity, encouraging drawing and crafts to build what’s essentially a guided art project.

Khandu is filled with adorable, gender-neutral monsters. (A fifth deck will be available in which these monsters can play as clients.) But while the aesthetic is as cute and kid-friendly as any mainstream game, there is something a bit unsettling about teaching 6- to 12-year-olds one of the prominent methodologies behind today’s corporate culture–especially when the term “design thinking” is both so flexible and debatable (compared with other systems of thought, like, say, the scientific method, which has been proven for some 900 years).

That said, Valdivieso is pretty confident in her company’s product about design thinking. After all, design thinking was used to build it.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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