Learning to innovate in uncertainty

Design thinking as a pedagogic approach to address real-world challenges in engineering education


  • Jessica Lagerstedt Wadin
  • Anders Warell


The world is facing grand challenges often related to societal and ecological crises. These challenges are typically complex and ill-defined, and may be characterized as wicked problems, meaning that their solutions cannot deduced, i.e., there is no simple answer which solves the problem. In order to address these real-world challenges, engineers of tomorrow need the skills and mindsets to see the big picture, understand complex problems, and address these through creative problem solving. We argue that engineering education needs to apply an abductive learning approach, characterized by critical and creative thinking. In this paper we present the approach of design thinking, which we have used to support the learning process and equip engineering students with the skills necessary to address such ill-defined problems. Based on insights from our experiences from our teaching practices, we further discuss the pedagogic approach of introducing design thinking in engineering education.