Create: Lead by Sonia Manchanda, Creative Lead @ MIND. Cofounder @Spread Design and Innovation

A range of new technologies have been fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.


This was Prof. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum speaking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, “the past”, which he called a time of great peril and promise! Prophetic words before the pandemic crept in, seeped through everything to reshape every aspect of our life.


In this landscape of time where everything is shifting; to be human is to take responsibility and to have the ability to respond: ‘is critical.


To respond, adapt, survive and thrive — acute sensitivity is paramountWhat we need is Dragonfly eyes to sense and respond at lightning speed! Dragonflies see the world in vivid ultra multicolor, combinations of eleven to fifty colors versus our feeble tricolor vision. Their compound eyes see three sixty degrees and have over thirty thousand facets. In a time of crisis, solutions that come from alertness, practice and preparation have greater value over process. Outcomes matter more than output!


When all our present ideas are burning down — will you be calm and rational, acting quickly and decisively? Or fearful and paralyzed? According to a former military psychologist, leadership comes down to training, exposure and experience.

Walker Hospital

A real story/the first story: Walker Hospital is (or was) a grand structure on the slope of a hill in Shimla, a hill station. It is made entirely in wood by the British, later reconverted into a hospital with just one narrow road leading up to it.


One night there is a fire. The commanding officer is alerted and very quickly decides — to break the connection between buildings so the fire does not spread, rolls all inflammables — gas cylinders, vehicles off the hill to clear the way and avoid explosion, to get the patients out and on the only road leading up to the hospital. The team divides up and gets moving. The hospital is reduced to cinders before their eyes, but not a single life is lost or even harmed.


Every year a building gets engulfed in flames in the town of Shimla. The commanding officer has to make decisions under fire and take responsibility for them. Which she did! I know this story intimately as the officer was my mother. It wasn’t easy — it wasn’t a choice. She was someone super creative, who joined the Army for its charisma and developed as a . Facing a critical moment of crisis and chaos, making life and death choices and taking responsibility.


A fire is raging through our world and everything we took for granted is under threat. Are you going to play ‘follow the leader’ or will you choose to lead?

“Contrary to what we believe, the best moments in our life are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. But when our bodies or minds are stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”


Mihaly CsikszentmihalyiDesigners, Innovators, Creative Folks and Entrepreneurs deliberately explore the unknown, challenge their own assumptions and beliefs, dive into chaos and complexity to create order and find insights. On an everyday basis.Much of this discovery is future-oriented, to change things for the better.


The future was first conceived systematically in someone’s mind as a creative response to the present. The spread of Ideas shapes our reality.

Design is our natural adaptive sense. It’s when we feel, think and do, engage the heart, head and hands.


Design relates to something tangible that is made. Sense refers to the meaning that is deliberately shaped, by exploring possibilities to reimagine the human experience. Bringing together the making of artifacts/experiences and shaping of meaning, the experience and the human.


Design Sense is a way to sense the shifts and respond, to act creatively from a place of authentic intent. To adapt, survive and thrive.

Sharing here — a design sense framework and method that leaders can apply in response to challenges.


Surya Namaskar is a framework for practice that gets you better and better.


Authentic intent or much more than a tip of your nose perspective is essential to arrive at a solution. It’s a journey of exploration, discovery and synthesis.


Starting with immersion, in the data, in the human context, from a macro and micro perspective. Empathy is an important value. You have to feel it in your bones.


Like a good investigator, you have to seek the truth and find the right insight. Only then you know the right frame to even approach the problem. Clouds of doubt get moved away so that everything can be seen clearly.


Entrepreneurs have the mental ability reframe a problem as an opportunity.


Once the problem or opportunity is clear; designers or design-led founders then choose to think differently, to connect the dots between emerging market trends, new technologies and human aspiration.


Creating fresh ideas. They train to push thinking infinitely.


Ideas when manifested fully, are the seeds for future experiences. Involving many people, places and moments. It is a great privilege and an act of responsibility to shape the future, thus it is important to imagine the consequences of design decisions, to visualise and share future scenarios. Imagine the future.


Prototypes are a possibility that someone with perseverance is ready to make, crafted, hone to bring an idea alive — can be touched and felt. And crafted over and over.


Iterate. Iterate. Iterate constantly, the digital space esp has that affordance where nothing is cast in stone, it is forgiving.


Building a narrative, telling a story loaded with possibilities — the act of inception! The present is disrupted, the future created when many dreamers take a leap of faith together. To spread a dream is artful compelling communication.


With great inclusion, designers, entrepreneurs harness the power of intent, to create impact and earn respect. Niyat and Izzat, two powerful words in Hindi.
We additionally suggest applying a metric to be more humanistic versus human-centered, to study benchmarks and learn, to self evaluate and imbue.


Human sense: A way to understand aspirations and create opportunities


Natural sense: Harness, renew, replenish, nurture, natural resources for future generations to live as naturally as possible


Economic sense: Make society as a whole far richer — inclusive


Cognitive sense: Reduce the cognitive load, data synthesis


Technology sense: Catching, innovating and adopting technologies early


Aesthetic sense: Nourish the soul with art — with beauty, simplicity and truth


Evolutionary sense: A higher state of Humanism


Design as a natural adaptive sense; shifting, streaming, creating, responding.


The second story: As a designpreneur working on large challenges, creating solutions that would have a massive impact, I saw it as my responsibility to understand where the design starts from. The argument I had learned at design school, echoed by or from the west is that design starts from needs. I spent considerable time arriving at the hypothesis that all creation should start from people’s dreams.


As when you start from needs, you make products smaller, when you start from dreams, you make aspirations bigger and move society forward. In an inside out versus a top-down approach.

I collaborated to create an independent open innovation and design research project. Across academia and industry to journey from dreams to solutions. Touching India, the United States of America, Brazil and China.


Converging leaders from policy, industry and the social sector with innovation practitioners, students and academicians as catalysts. To explore how we might dream, believe and realise collectively. With as much respect for individual aspiration, as for collective and sustainable growth.


There’s an optimist skeptic in each one of us who we must nurture. The Dream:IN Project became a new way to think about design!


More significantly, changing every one of the 10,000 people who chose to be touched by it — it was voluntary.


Stepping out to explore a challenge independently, that of shifting design’s focus in emerging markets from needs to dreams, empowered and transformed the people involved in long term. The impact of which has been felt globally.

2013 // Recognised as a Gamechanger / Metropolis Partners
2013 // Featured by Bruce Nussbaum
2013 // Studied by Dr. Emma Jefferies
2015 // Featured by Carola Verschoor
2019 // Featured by Navi Radjou


Every day, in every way, you can get better and better. So why be static?
There are two great possibilities within each one of us — to be curious and questioning creating our own knowledge and wisdom, to lead with our ideas. So why settle for less?

So to listen, to immerse, engage and to explore possibilities has to be a matter of habit and a way of being.


Coming back to the everyday work of designers and intrapreneurs in this case. In one co-creation workshop with the CarrotCube team at Hexaware, we worked to ‘humanize technology’, reimagining the soul of a product that seamlessly connects caregivers, hospitals and patients to improve the quality of connectedness and care. As we recognize that technology is a powerful force that can either empower us or overwhelm us.

We worked with the tech, marketing and more teams in designerly ways — to build personas, tell stories, think through journeys, ideate experiences and most importantly create ‘what if’ scenarios about the future. So, while design outcomes may be a different experience, a fresh narrative, the most important outcome was shifting the mindset of everyone in the team to personify and humanise the technology! It all starts with the mind!

Another instance from our work at Spread Design was to create a Healthcare brand around the simple idea of ‘healing you’, as that’s what should be the promise of healthcare.

As a symbol of this commitment, we designed a center and experience called VIDA, which in Sanskrit means ‘discovery’. A place essentially that even in this digital age, when students are not compelled to study samples, would draw them and even young and old ones in the neighborhood, to a blended experience where technology and the physical space and great storytelling and knowledge.

You bring in the marketing folks, the technologists, the interior designers, the medical experts, the learning experts and find a common language and a way to communicate to reimagine the learning experience!

We learn from our work around Organics and Millets in Karnataka that social change is complex work, requires understanding the aspirations of people at many levels. In this instance our work started from a tough place — the place of farmer suicides and the solution that the earnest Minister for Agriculture had proposed to the subsistence farmer, to grow millet and turn to organics. The challenge was the lack of awareness and understanding and the absence of a market.


Within limited budgets, with the design of a system that included communication, training, planning, events and global engagement, we were able to get the world to say ‘Let’s Millet’. Which led us to our next challenge — that of behavior change, by design — around open defecation, waste management and water across rural Karnataka. But more about that super complex challenge, another time.


Who will dive into the muck and emerge with solutions? Clearly design will. So it’s not always a glamorous job but it’s most satisfying when you can be a genuine changemaker, pathbreaker!


Watch this!

The third story. It is critical in our country to bridge the design gap, harness the power of creativity and turn to entrepreneurship that is design led. Creating original solutions to our timeless problems. To speed up this urgent task, we designed a physical cospace to cocreate, cowork, colearn and codesign the future.

It’s most natural that a firm located on a sustainable farm should create a Design Barn — a space and a blank canvas to see the future. Design Barn was almost immediately embraced in its first year by design-led innovators like Accenture Ventures, Amazon, Daimler, Google, many Startups and a creative community.


It also brought together Spread and Manipal Global, to launch MIND. An initiative and a place in the digital realm. To spread design as a way to feel think and do in the digital age.


Most of all at MIND; we go from a fixed mindset to a mindset free. To this end, we have hosted a series of exciting free and sessions with Leaders globally / MIND LEADERS LIVE. It started with Cansu Ozgul-Designer in Exile, // Hailey Temple-Service Design Champion, // Brian Hallet-Viral Storyteller on X factor,// Arvind Lodaya-Innovation Maestro, // Alok Nandi-Designer in Transit,// Saptarshi Prakash-Next Gen Product Innovator, // and Sonal Dabral-the Media Maestro.

The first MIND aspiration is a Creative Leadership Program with the most Creative and Complete Curriculum that stretches the mind, shows learners how to flow through the troughs and crests of an audacious dare or project, finally to fill the mind with expansive ideas. With tools, methods and frameworks that can be applied to any challenge big or small. To dare is to lose the fear of failure and develop a habit of overcoming.

MIND has a carefully parsed and stellar industry and academic council to augment the intelligence and network of our learners.


The Council members: Kaleem Kamboj / Professor at Parsons School of Design, Dr. Emma Jefferies Organizational Consultant,/ Yu-Kai Chou, Gamification Designer, / Dr Raveendra Nayak, Director and Professor Manipal Institute of Management,/ Deepak Menon, Partner Director Microsoft,/ Avnish Sabharwal Accenture Ventures,/ Satyaki Raghunath CSDO BIAL, / Biju Damodharan Sr. Manager UX Design, /Alok Nandi, MD Spread Design and Sonia Manchanda, Co-Founder Spread Design.


Through the dares, there is direct mentorship and guidance and the opportunity to implement your solutions. All through the program, learners work with their hands as much as with the mind, adopting and gaining a love for creative tools.


Get a grip on Creative tools. Go to Design Book for any challenge. Full of frameworks and insights, Methods and Tools you can apply. Build Tensility with the right balance of industry and academics. Practice-oriented, impact led. Leadership is a Journey; you never know what challenges will come in the way; so (you better) be prepared (you should best).


We respect Manipal, it’s a brand and organization that we have been involved with for many years and you would realize that the certification holds great value.

The Creative Leadership cohort is diverse across cultures, geographies, professions, industry, sector, experience with entrepreneurs, freelancers, employees from MNCs & Startups. Interior Designers to Operation Heads to Interaction Designers to Business Heads to Design Managers, Artists, Engineers and many more.


While nature may not have given us crazy dragonfly eyes, she did give us the capacity to imagine and imagination is the greatest resource we have! To develop dragonfly eyes to see the world of work and life for the possibilities it offers you, takes a great deal of practice. And a magic circle where anything is possible, a place where you are not afraid to express and create. So that you see beyond, you love challenges and love life! When you have a rhythm of work and reflect, adapt and evolve, the work becomes effortless!


We believe imagination — the capacity to create, evolve, and exploit mental models of things or situations that don’t yet exist — is the crucial factor in seizing and creating new opportunities, and finding new paths to growth.


Imagination is also one of the hardest things to keep alive under pressure. With imagination, we can do better than merely adapting to a new environment — we can thrive by shaping it. April 10, 2020, 


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Sonia Manchanda

Sonia Manchanda

Founding Partner Spread Design and Innovation.

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