This year I am working toward certification in Design Thinking through IDEO, a Palo Alto-based “global design company committed to creating positive impact.”
IDEO was founded by David Kelly, a Stanford University engineering professor who is also one of the founders of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the Stanford d-school. The d-school, launched in 2005, “builds on methods from across the field of design to create learning experiences that help people unlock their creative potential and apply it to the world.”
The d-school acknowledges that:
Students are facing a world that is complex and in flux. Equipping students to navigate ambiguity is the most important thing we do.”
Toward that end, the Stanford programs help students strengthen their creative abilities to learn how to reframe real-word challenges leading to more innovative solutions. The approach taught is called Design Thinking (DT). Stanford offers learning experiences for innovation fellows, K-12 educators, executives/business leaders, students, and practitioners in social impact fields. IDEO offers consulting services and courses in all aspects of DT including those taught at Stanford and those in the certification program in which I am enrolled.
The focus on DT is expanding rapidly and it is now an integral part of the curriculum in many prestigious universities in the US and abroad including: Stanford, UCI, MIT, the University of Virginia, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, the University of Rhode Island, Aalto University (Finland) and Esade (Spain).
Design Thinking’s premise is that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovation can be learned. When that learning is applied, more creative breakthrough solutions emerge to address complex and “wicked” problems (those not clearly defined) and positive change happens. DT success is dependent on collaboration, a flexible workspace, and application of the DT process.
The Design Thinking Process
The process moves from gaining an understanding of those impacted by the challenge under study and observing, interviewing and empathizing with them to develop, prototype and test possible solutions.
As an example of an application of DT to higher education, read this Winter 2018 article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Goals to Support Vanguard’s Innovation
My goal is to become equipped to introduce Vanguard students to the Design Thinking approach and to help them learn to manage ambiguity and address difficult problems innovatively.
- What would it look like at VU if there were a cross-disciplinary team working on a project to address homelessness issues in Costa Mesa?
- Could a project take on the hurdles of creating more efficient home building projects in locations where VU mission teams go?
- How could VU work with social agencies to persuade households to adopt healthier eating habits?
- Could VU students work with a team from the Santa Ana school district to address ways to encourage children to read more?
- Could VU students (PS, TUG and Grad) develop recommendations to foster more purposeful collaboration in the workplace?
Some of these topics were ones the international teams in my initial course at IDEO addressed. Bringing together people from across the globe to collaborate on these issues as we were introduced to the DT process was fascinating. We not only worked on our own projects, but we had the opportunity to provide feedback to those working on other challenges and to receive feedback on our ideas. The radical collaboration among people from many different countries and cultures was energizing and effective in helping us hone our recommendations.
Design Thinking is a powerful form of ideation that is grounded in empathizing with and understanding people well, so solutions are truly tailored to their goals – it is human-centered, creative design. I am immersed in the process and looking forward to expanding my own creative abilities.