How to design a brighter future

Jim Tsipoutas
Published in
6 min readApr 27, 2020
Illustration by Sue Cornelison

The past — give or take — two months my mind keeps wandering. How didn’t we realise before, that we kept missing the essential aspects of life? Our daily rush was overloading us, and humanity change was just a very long-shot scenario.

But, COVID-19 is here, and it is already changing our everyday lives.

What will the next day be like? Will our lives change forever?
Well, nobody can give us an accurate answer but surely, there is room for creating a better tomorrow for humanity.

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
Arundhati Roy

The truth is that in the past, we struggled with various similar situations, catastrophes, wars and many more, but humans are resilient and entrepreneurial. We are perfectly capable of beginning again. If we learn from our failures, we can design a brighter future than the one that is currently in front of us.

The problem-solving process

Being a designer for more than 15 consecutive years has taught me something very significant: to always focus on user needs, to collaborate with people and to solve problems. Well-solved problems always play a fundamental role in business and it’s what attracts peoples’ emotion.

The key ingredients? Empathy and collaboration. Empathy is all about understanding what people need and feel, so as to offer the best possible solution. Collaboration between a team of people is essential for understanding the problem from different perspectives and for encouraging innovative thinking.

All the above is just an easy way to describe to you what Design Thinking is. It is a problem-solving process that fosters our creativity to look at things differently and provide solutions.

If you think about it…this could be applied in our daily lives, couldn’t it?

And I can hear you saying… I love all those you are mentioning, but I am not a creative person and surely I am not a designer to do all these things and help change the world.

Well, this is the time to reframe your thinking and let me assure you, that everyone is a designer. Each one of us has solved many problems in the past and made his or her life much easier. Design is more than just creating beautiful objects. So, I will add the word “thinking” next to “design” once again, and I will tell you a story about the recipe of the “Stone Soup”, an old fable written by Robert Moser on how to collaborate with other people, to help them overcome their fears and to use limited available resources to create something valuable, seemingly out of nothing!

The making of stone soup.

Illustration by Jacqueline Rogers

Once upon a time, there was a man who had been travelling for a long time. Having run out of food, he was starving from his journey. When he arrived at the small village, he thought, “Maybe I can find someone that could share with me some food.”

When the man knocked at the first house, he asked the woman who answered, “Could you spare a bit of food? I’ve travelled a long way and am very hungry.” “I’m sorry, but I have nothing to give you,” the woman replied.

So the traveller went to the next door and asked again. The answer was still the same. Not one of the villagers were willing to oblige the man, as times were tough and no one had much to spare.

But then one villager said, “All I have is some water.” “Thank you,” the traveller said smiling gratefully, “We can make some soup from that water. We can make stone soup.”

He asked the man for a cooking pot and started building a small fire. As the water began to boil, a passing villager stopped and asked him what he was doing. “I’m making stone soup,” the traveller replied. “Would you like to join me?” The curious villager agreed.

“First, we must add a special stone,” said the traveller. “One with magic in it.” He reached into his knapsack and carefully unwrapped a special stone he’d been carrying with him for many years. Then he put it in the simmering pot.

Soon people from the village heard about this strange man who was making soup from a stone. They started gathering around the fire, asking questions. “What does your stone soup taste like?” asked one of the villagers. “Well, it would be better with a few onions,” the traveller admitted. “Oh, I have some onions,” he replied.

Another villager said, “I could bring a few carrots.” Someone else offered, “We still have some potatoes in our garden. I’ll go get them.”

One by one, each villager brought something to add to the pot. What had started as just some water and a magic stone, had now become a delicious soup, enough to feed the whole village. The traveller and the villagers sat down together to enjoy their feast, and the miracle they’d help to create.

After the festive evening, as the traveller was packing up to head on his way, he thanked everyone for helping.

“As repayment for your kindness and generosity,” the traveller announced, “I’d like to give your village the gift of this stone. So, you can keep making soup even when you have a drought upon you.” The villagers all cheered with delight.

They thanked the traveller profusely as he made his way out of town. He continued on his way.

Robert Moser’s fable of Stone Soup has been told at least as far back as 1808, when it was published in The European Magazine and London Review as The Recipe for Stone Soup. Fundamentally, it’s a tale about creative problem-solving.

The traveller wasn’t a designer, he was just using his thoughts for finding a solution to his hunger. Through empathy, he understood that everyone was resisting and when he changed the context and made the rest of the villagers part of the problem, the reactions were different. A new collaboration was born. He had definitely solved the problem and everyone was happy. The villagers were adding those “little” things in order to create something extraordinary desirable.

How problem-solving is applied in the COVID-19 era?

While our everyday life has completely changed, we can see an explosion of solutions from all around the world that make our daily lives much better.

People are singing from balconies. Parents are closer to their children. Singers are singing live through our screens. Important global meetings are held through virtual rooms. Friends and family are communicating through Facetime a lot more than before. People exercise from home a lot more than before. We take our hygiene seriously. Work from home has become acceptable by all companies that can support it. Hotels became places for doctors that need to rest. Students and teachers are following their courses online. Airlines are arranging flights with medical supplies, not with travellers who want to visit their favourite country.

All of the above came out of people like you. People who are struggling and who wanted to solve the problem using creativity.

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives, will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” Brian Tracy

One last thing… I’ve never considered myself as the super optimistic or the super pessimistic person. I am more of a realist. I truly wish this pandemic was not real. But here we are, dealing with this massive change and I count on humanity that when we get out of this pandemic, all those new ideas will create a brighter future for all of us.

And don’t forget that, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far go with your people.

ps. The last two years, at Stoiximan, we work a lot to embed frameworks like this in our process that enhance collaboration and creativity. I would be very glad to answer your questions or refer you to the right resources and learn more about it. But till then, start with the following link, a free course, that comes directly from IBM, the pioneers on Design Thinking.

Feel free to explore this magnificent world!

Till next time, keep on design-thinking!



Jim Tsipoutas

Product Design Manager @KaizenGaming (Stoiximan & Betano). Obsessed with design systems. Design Sprint Facilitator. Blockchain enthusiast.