Posted by: bbannan | January 21, 2009

Business Schools may move to design thinking

Here is a clip from Bruce Nussbaum, Innovation editor of Business Week Magazine.  As a nation, we now more than ever need people who are good at design thinking, creativity and efficiency.  People who can generate new ideas and things, test products and creatively iterate will be very valuable in this new economy.  There are movements toward integrating design thinking and testing into business schools as well as corporate culture.

Watch the following clips and respond to briefly contribute what elements you would include in a new academic program focused primarily on “design thinking.”

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Responses

  1. This is not too original, but I’d suggest an ADDIE course sequence, with changes and additions:
    1. a course or two on Creativity and creative teamwork – strategies, principles, learning styles, group dynamics, supportive work environments, etc. (Some schools offer degrees in creative thinking http://www.buffalostate.edu/creativity/ )
    2. Humans, Society, and Technology – analysis and trends: anticipate the new, and apply new technologies to old problems.
    3. User, problem & project analysis, including formal & informal research methods
    4. Design by invention & adaptation
    5. Development, both traditional and experimental/original approaches
    6. Implementation and Evaluation – traditional and nontraditional methods, including “kaizen” and other ways to end the separation of design from other departments. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/methods_kaizen.html

  2. One of the pillars of design thinking is teamwork and end-users focus. Integrating use of Web 2.0 technologies with case-based learning or problem solving reasoning may contribute to explore, share, post ideas, implement and learn on a more flexible environment. It is necessary to collect and create ill-defined problems and present them to the students early on during the academic program.

    Usability courses, human-factors, project management, system development process may be included on the curriculum as well.

  3. After watching the video, and reading the articles from the Wiki and watching the Google video, I would like to see user research really tackled in an academic program.

    The class could look like this…the students would be given a client/product and they would work in groups to learn and brainstorm how and what works for users, and why it is working as it is. I think this will start to create some out of the box thinking of the students involved. Real world context would be key…so pulling in real businesses would be essential. Hypothetical situations or scenarios may not be the best situation.

    I also think that as a “design” course there should be some kind of learning or design in two aspects….design as an art and design as a product itself. I.E. plain jane websites will not always attract people — Google is the exception. But design and art draw people in. “Oh that is cool looking.” I believe giving people that do not have a background in graphic design would benefit from an intro class. These kind of things may help the student to begin to think outside the box.

  4. I agree with Scott, Maricel, and Bill. When I read the article on Design Thinking and watched the video it made me think that students need to understand why design thinking is so critical. I think it would be interesting to have students take a design course that taught them the fundamentals of design and then a course on creativity. These courses are not typical for business students. That would then lead to a course on design thinking. There is an article in BusinessWeek from 2006 that addresses the need for creative thinkers. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_41/b4004401.htm
    I think that often there is a set way that business schools work. It’s hard to get them outside the box. Students need to be given the liberty to think outside the box. Adding courses that put them in a different environment would help encourage that.

  5. Reflecting back on what we learned in 732, incorporating aspects of Learning by Design would be beneficial to an academic program focused on design thinking. One of the reasons I feel “model based” business thinking prevails is the fear of failure when breaking away from a model that had been previously established as successful. However, as environments change, new models are required. A lack of willingness to take risks impedes innovative thought.

    Learning by Design allows students, in a safe environment, to push far outside of the box with the only “consequence” being lessons learned from the experience. LBD encourages reflection on the learning process, helping students think about their thinking. It also encourages combining and modifying information from previous cases into a new, innovative solution. Finally, LBD is an inherently collaborative process, a critical aspect of any business education.

  6. I have to agree with Terri Ann. Truly creative people tend to think outside the systematic way of doing things, while most folks work within the system, whatever that may be. For example I can draw, have some artistic talent, but I am not a creator. I am not someone who can come up with totally original ideas, though I can figure out ways to use old ideas in new ways, I am not an “original thinker”.

    I believe people like myself who think and operate within a system, need to be able to experience learning outside of structure. Much like constructivism where the goal is to learn how to learn, what islearned is up to the individual. It would be very uncomfortable and frustrating, but may open up individuals enough to allow for creative thinking.

  7. As I went through the clip by Bruce Nussbaum, I began to think back to the first job I ever had after graduation. It was with a technical organization, which specialized in network design and implementation. Oddly, at that time, we were not encouraged to “think creatively” as we designed the training needed to go along with the delivered product. The rule was “Production does the thinking and you tell the client what they think.

    Of course that was then. As I have wandered through the years, I have noticed, as I think everyone has, the trend toward expanded thought as we try for new and innovative methods not only for delivery but for handling the training need. These days, we seem to focus more on how to present, but the “what to present” question has greater validity than ever. I have been exposed to all of the newest methods for presentation – and I actually like most of them. The thought of making the user part of the design experience instead of just the recipient opens doors that did not exist in the past.

    I view the process of design today as a shared process, with the participant moving from end-user to collaborator as the design process moves into the production phase. We have always depended on resources, but we, as designers, tended to shelter our efforts until we deemed them worthy of being placed on exhibit. In the settings we are working with in today’s world, we not only need to ‘think outside the box’, we need to think on a flat playing field in which our efforts, directions, innovations and , yes, our failures, are open and available for comment and aid from the expanded human resource available and willing to help.

    Models, such as ADDIE are starting points. One of the best models is trial and error, supported by research, application, and critique. If I have learned nothing else in my latest learning venture, it is that risk is good. It stimulates the mind and opens paths that would never have been thought of if only safe actions had been taken.

  8. I really like what Maricel said, and I agree with Terri Ann and Pam. I think that in the world we live in, we have to find some way to marry design thinking with the processes we follow as instructional designers. Instead of thinking of everything in terms of user interface design, we have to consider the foundations of our instruction, which is not necessarily the design, but the objectives, the content, what is to be learned. Then, I think that we need to incorporate the aspects of design that create innovative environments where learning occurs in order to create a final educational product that is rooted properly and innovative.

    I see the similarities between user interface design and instructional systems design, but don’t quite know how the two ways of thinking converge.

  9. In Hugh Dubberly’s “How Do You Design,” the author outlines over 100 pages of design models – from academic models, to software development models, to cyclic models. He pulls design patterns from all disciplines – art, architecture, network systems, business, etc. – outlining unique differences and noting reoccurring themes. While it is clear that each model describes a design process, they all do so in different ways. Tim Brennan describes design concisely as “Somebody calls up with a project; we do some stuff; and the money follows.” Yet other groups or individuals create complex models several pages long which detail every aspect of the process and workflow.

    I do not believe that some people ‘can’ design and others ‘can’t’. I simply feel some people “do” design and others don’t know how to begin. Design isn’t a spark of insight, a moment of clarity where a difficult problem is solved. It’s a repetitive process that builds on itself, that takes from multiple smaller insights or innovations to create a new idea. The iPhone is a highly regarded device, which may be viewed as business genius by apple. However, in truth, it was sought and requested long before it came to be. It required years of research and negotiation with other business partners, yet still had a long way to go to become a fully realized product. Similarly, artists do not simply dream up wonderful ideas. They study other artists. They observe trends in culture. They breathe in a world of continuously flowing ideas and restate them as new works of art or design.

    Since these are the skills required for design, they should be those that are encouraged by a design thinking model. Just as I.D. students have the ADDIE model, students of business should study the models relevant to their profession, and create a model that best fits their perception of design. Just as we study theory, they should also study the advancements of their profession, and receive encouragement from their professors to continue their study after leaving the classroom. Just as artists and architects practice their craft, and continually revise it, students of business should craft new products or strategies, and conduct a field test to evaluate if their ideas have merit, or if they need to be changed. Through study, practice and inspiration, these students can learn how to think like designers.

  10. In Hugh Dubberly’s “How Do You Design,” the author outlines over 100 pages of design models – from academic models, to software development models, to cyclic models. He pulls design patterns from all disciplines – art, architecture, network systems, business, etc. – outlining unique differences and noting reoccurring themes. While it is clear that each model describes a design process, they all do so in different ways. Tim Brennan describes design concisely as “Somebody calls up with a project; we do some stuff; and the money follows.” Yet other groups or individuals create complex models several pages long which detail every aspect of the process and workflow.

    I do not believe that some people ‘can’ design and others ‘can’t’. I simply feel some people “do” design and others don’t know how to begin. Design isn’t a spark of insight, a moment of clarity where a difficult problem is solved. It’s a repetitive process that builds on itself, that takes from multiple smaller insights or innovations to create a new idea. The iPhone is a highly regarded device, which may be viewed as business genius by apple. However, in truth, it was sought and requested long before it came to be. It required years of research and negotiation with other business partners, yet still had a long way to go to become a fully realized product. Similarly, artists do not simply dream up wonderful ideas. They study other artists. They observe trends in culture. They breathe in a world of continuously flowing ideas and restate them as new works of art or design.

    Since these are the skills required for design, they should be those that are encouraged by a design thinking model. Just as I.D. students have the ADDIE model, students of business should study the models relevant to their profession, and create a model that best fits their perception of design. Just as we study theory, they should also study the advancements of their profession, and receive encouragement from their professors to continue their study after leaving the classroom. Just as artists and architects practice their craft, and continually revise it, students of business should craft new products or strategies, and conduct a field test to evaluate if their ideas have merit, or if they need to be changed. Through study, practice and inspiration, these students can learn how to think like designers.

  11. Don Nelson is one of those usability gurs who holds up ordinary objects and says, why not? He’s from the school of IDEO thinkers who produce those smaller shopping carts at Safeway, that leave far more space for kitty litter boxes and cases of beers. He’s been studying the “gotta-haves” of grocery shopping instead of “nice-to-haves.” Anyway, Norman co-directs the dual degree MBA + Engineering degree program between the Kellogg school and Northwestern Engineering.

    In a podcast w/ C-SPAN, Norman discussed the “creative engineers” the joint MBA program is trying to produce. He described a t-square diagram, w/ all students starting at the center — where the two lines meet. In the program, the students purse their pathsin different. They absolutely are not creating designers, he said, but MBAs and engineers who consider design in every aspect of their projects.

    more on the MMM degree: mmm.northwestern.edu


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