360° of Design Thinking in Technology & Society

Design thinking, also known as human-centered design, is an innovation and problem-solving methodology used to explore real-world issues and experiment with solutions that integrate what is desirable from a human point of view, with what is technically feasible and financially viable.

I researched, prototyped and lectured about human-centered design at the intersection of technology, business, policy and society at Stanford. Rethinking the way people create new technologies, business strategies, organizations and policies, among others, helps innovation flourish in thoughtful and responsible ways. Based on this idea, I've been exploring how design thinking can be applied holistically to different aspects of technology and social systems in entrepreneurial settings.

By working with extremely multi-disciplinary teams and partner organizations from the private and public sectors, I helped design, prototype and test new technologies and business models, experimented with agile interfaces for innovation, re-imagined cities, industries, habits and narratives, and explored human-centered AI.

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Mainstreaming a double bottom line in entrepreneurship and investing

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was launched by the White House under Barack Obama's presidency. The first summit took place in Washington DC and was successively hosted around the world. During his final year of presidency, Barack Obama brought the Summit back to the USA, hosting it at Stanford. 

I partnered with the U.S. Department of State to design and chair the Impact Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Summit. Purpose-driven entrepreneurship and impact investing are on the rise, bringing into the spotlight a double bottom line of profit-making and positive impact on society. How might we mainstream this trend? Should the words tech entrepreneurship and investing normally imply such a double bottom line? What are the future scenarios ahead of us?

 

These questions were discussed with the GES official delegates selected by the U.S. Department of State, as well as special guests from the Silicon Valley and the World Economic Forum's communities. The initiative includes nineteen working groups focused on designing the future of specific industries, markets and projects. Learn more about some of the discussions we had at GES in this Fortune article.

 

Making European Universities More Entrepreneurial

Most European universities are not (yet) producing significant volumes of entrepreneurial outputs. However, Europe is increasingly in need of innovation and jobs creation. To tackle this problem, I co-created an EU Knowledge Alliance and a master's program aimed at spurring entrepreneurship and innovation in European universities through experiential learning, Silicon Valley's best practices and the engagement of local ecosystems.

 

My team and I built a European network of universities, companies and foundations from nine EU member states, and Stanford as an extra-EU partner. Together, we designed and piloted Europe's first experiential Master's program in Entrepreneurship whose students' core deliverable is creating a social or technology venture. We also built digital tools supporting the program's participants throughout their venture creation and learning process.

 

My main contributions were: creating the partnership between Stanford, the European Commission (which funds the Alliance), and the University of Milan Bicocca (which leads the network); embedding design thinking and Silicon Valley innovation practices at the core of SMARTUP; leading the Stanford design thinking and human-centered ventures program for the SMARTUP European faculty and executives; facilitating the program's design; leading the Stanford working packages; and lecturing and mentoring the first cohort of graduate students in Europe. 

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