'Design thinking' is a mindset to help people see things from other angles
A new type of mindset is needed in the business arena nowadays, one which comprises both business values and creativity – two seemingly contradicting values that are essential for innovation.
This is the firm view of Randy Simmons and Chris Fawson, professors at Utah State University’s (USU) Jon M Huntsman School of Business in the United States.
The “merger” between these two “opposite” factors is possible through what is known as “design thinking”, they say.
“[Design thinking] is learning to think, not necessarily in a linear manner, but to be able to recognise opportunity and to be able to look at problems from new directions,” said Simmons, a political economy professor and director of USU’s Institute of Political Economy.
In an upcoming new joint programme with Nation University, the two institutions will encourage students to think about the “what ifs”, and not just about the “what is”.
“So if I think ‘what is’, well I now have a problem here, I need to go and solve that problem. But ‘what if’ there are lots of ways of approaching that to create much more value than a traditional ‘what is?” said Simmons.
Design thinking allows for a merger between discipline and creativity because it “embodies all that is good about the creative side”, he added.
Drawing on examples from Samsung and Pixar, economics and finance professor Fawson said: “If we don’t create value in a business sense, we can’t sustain the creative process.”
“That’s what we’re talking about – how do organisations better find those complementaries, because it’s very easy to be stuck at the end points of one or the other?” he added.
Referring to a workshop exercise, Simmons said the purpose was to get “people to think very deeply about issues, products, people [and] organisational structure”.
Fawson agrees that it works the same way with functionality of business, because “what design thinking does is bring a broader integrated perspective of the roles of those traditional functionalities of business within an organisation”.
The upcoming Nation University-USU programme will offer a series of courses on design thinking, as well as traditional courses such as managerial economics and accounting finance.
The new Business by Design course is different from others because it pushes students to think outside the box.
There are several different approaches to the programme, which is expected to open next year.
First is an executive education course for people who are already employed and who want to do intensive short courses.
Another project in the works is an MBA programme composed of 10 traditional courses.
The first of these is a two-week course in Utah, which will be followed by another eight courses in Thailand. The final course will be conducted back in Utah, where successful students will return to USU and take part in a graduation ceremony.
USU is also looking to facilitate an undergraduate programme in economics with a management focus.
Taking what USU has implemented in China over the past 14 years as a model, the programme will serve as an integrative perspective from the undergraduate level to the executive training level, creating a seamless platform for continuous learning.