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Empowering Kids to be Innovators Delivers Results

November 27, 2015 by Sam Yen 22

Design Thinking is a foundation of any successful, innovative company.

It is a process for creating new and innovative ideas for solving problems, and can be one of the most effective approaches for resolving issues that require deep understanding of root causes and varying perspectives. The process features open and, at times, divergent thinking (no wrong ideas!) to embrace ambiguities and alternative paths. It also requires teamwork, genuine empathy for others’ points of view, the inevitability of failing along the way, and – with luck — an “a-ha moment.”

As Jon Kolko has written recently in the Harvard Business Review (September 2015), organizations today “are recognizing the extraordinary levels of complexity they must manage.  Design Thinking is an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing.  It can’t be extra; it needs to be a core competence.”

Look at any creative, disruptive company. They find solutions to life’s problems. They bring simplicity to a world filled with complexity. They think of ideas, uncover a way to bring them life, and then turn them into reality. This is Design Thinking at its core.

If we can get today’s youth engaged in tackling problems, solving issues, and creating news ideas, we can make our youth better prepared for tomorrow’s business challenges — and ultimately make this a better world.

Two years ago, SAP embarked on a strategic partnership with GENYOUth – a youth-empowerment nonprofit – for the purpose of cultivating young social entrepreneurs across the country. GENYOUth’s AdVenture Capital program, which helps students design and implement impactful school and community-wellness solutions, provides the perfect means for achieving that goal. Using a Design Thinking approach, GENYOUth and SAP worked closely with students to develop AdCapYOUth.org, a digital platform that supports students in bringing their innovative school and community wellness ideas to life.

In this spirit, GENYOUth launched a “Social Innovation Series” across five U.S. cities this fall.  At these events, executives and subject-matter experts collaborated with students to use Design Thinking to come up with creative, innovative and unique ways for solving issues in their school or community. Students then pitched their projects to a panel of local judges who awarded prizes and funding to the students’ schools to implement the idea.

This is where you come in! One of those winning students will be named the “SAP Teen Innovator,” and recognized during an event leading up to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. You can view all of the winning projects and vote for your favorite on the AdCapYOUth website.

I invite all students, parents, teachers, and educators to join us in cultivating and rewarding student entrepreneurs who have the power to solve some of our schools’, our communities’, and our nation’s biggest challenges.  The idea that everyone can make a meaningful impact in the world is why we strive to support our children to engineer positive innovations in all areas of life.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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