Stop talking, start making! Future Thinkers transforming challenges into opportunities.

Future Thinkers is one of ABCN’s newest programs and is already gaining popularity amongst our member companies and mentors for its focus on innovation and creative problem solving.

Future Thinkers

The program, developed with seed funding and support from ABCN member company EY, aims to build transferrable enterprise skills in Year 9 and Year 10 students as they work with mentors to practice transforming challenges into opportunities.

Future Thinkers is based around the principles of design thinking – a human centred approach to innovation. These principles are increasingly being used by organisations to solve problems and redefine challenges as they remain competitive in an ever changing workplace landscape.

After a successful pilot in mid-2018 the program has been off to a running start with recent sessions being held in Sydney and Melbourne, before being rolled out across the country in 2019.

Peta Magick, Program Development Manager at ABCN, developed the program and thinks the popularity of design thinking is due to it being “an interactive, collaborative and fun process that really enables you to develop innovative solutions to challenges.”

ABCN is delighted with the response to Future Thinkers and thought we’d share some of our learnings from the initial sessions and some of the feedback we’ve received.

But first, what is design thinking?

Design thinking is all about working in a team and being prepared to try new things, think outside the box and make mistakes. Students (and mentors) are taught the five key stages of design thinking the “5 Ds of Design”:

  • Discover and empathise: step outside of your comfort zone to better understand other perspectives.
  • Define and identify the main problem to solve.
  • Dream and ideate: generate new ideas and creative solutions using your imagination.
  • Design and prototype: show and tell with a tangible solution to the problem
  • Deliver, test and iterate: try out an idea and if it doesn’t work keep trying!

Design Thinking


A key principle of design thinking is to embrace ambiguity and step outside of your comfort zone. Peta Magick explains:

I think that more than ever, everyone needs to be prepared for change and disruption in the world of work and we all need to be adaptable. Providing a safe and supportive space in the workshop where students and mentors can embrace discomfort is a great way to demonstrate how much you can learn and grow when you are willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone.”

Our Future Thinkers program is open to mentors from all industries and a prior knowledge of design thinking is not required, providing a learning opportunity for the mentors themselves.

“Mentors get to flex their coaching and mentoring muscles in a different environment and it is great to see them challenged as much as the students. We often place limitations on our own thinking or think we don’t have the capacity to think creatively or innovatively but the design thinking methodology enables mentors to explore different perspectives, apply their critical thinking skills to a problem and work collaboratively with our amazing students!”

Over the last few months the program saw students stepping up to the challenges set for them, where they created a number of memorable solutions to their set problem. These included: an anti-bullying app, “Bully-dozer”, that enabled peer to peer support for students experiencing bullying; “Culture Connect”, an online platform to support recently arrived refugee and migrant students; and a solar-powered waste recycling robot. Our Year 9 and Year 10 students shared some feedback about their experience:

“The most useful thing I learnt from the workshop today was the enterprise skills that are needed for the future. I [also] learnt from the mentors that it’s okay to fail at first. As you will learn from others how to complete the task.”(Kelly, student)

Always put your ideas out there to be tested even if they might not work… it is ok. Because your idea could be the one to change the world!” (Bethia, student)

The most useful thing I learnt from this amazing experience was communicating with others to improve my ideas and learning to develop my ideas. I learnt from my mentors to not be scared to share your ideas. The Design Thinking workshop [has] helped me personally to improve my ideas and communicate with others in a fun way.” (Paige, student)

Thanks to all of our wonderful students, mentors and member companies for embracing our new Future Thinkers program, we’re looking forward to more design thinking in 2019.

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