I worked for 20 years at IDEO. I consider IDEO to be one of the pioneers of design thinking. About 15 years ago, I was asked by Tim Brown [CEO of IDEO] to design an exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt museum. Tim Brown was at the front edge of business consulting with many leaders in the industry. He realized there were other ways to solve problems than just through subject expertise. Up to that point, that was the only way you could solve problems: you had to be an expert.
The issue with solving problems through expertise is that there was little to no consideration for issues faced by the end users. Adding on the lens of understanding the end users, then using creativity to solve the problems, we found that that was another good way to get at innovative solutions.
Jerome Goh designed an exhibit for IDEO at Cooper Hewitt.
Why is it important to study design thinking in today's evolving world?
I think design thinking is interesting because it came out at a time when people realized the impact of using the ways of designers to solve business problems. Design thinking is an innovative way to find solutions in the business world. Now you're also seeing people use it more and more for these larger issues. Purportedly, the U.S. government used design thinking to encourage people to become vaccinated. And Singapore used design thinking for travelers coming into the country to do business.
It’s very easy to use design thinking to solve a self-contained problem but it’s harder when you actually bring it in to solve problems that we face as society, like sustainability and social issues. This certificate will allow students to understand how to solve these problems better.
Why is Parsons the best place to pursue a certificate in design thinking?
Parsons has always been a different kind of school; it started out as an alternative school for people who didn’t have access to the more privileged areas of education. And design thinking has always been about practice. I think that is very in-line with the methodology that Parsons has always had.
Why is this certificate well-suited for adults and working professionals?
The reason we have continuing education is because we want people to evolve and grow in their skills. The day of someone graduating with a skill-set and continuing with that skill-set for the rest of their lives is a pipe-dream that has now passed. In this day and age, people have to constantly evolve because the business challenges no longer stay the same, they are constantly evolving as well. So it’s very important for people to understand that you have to update yourself. You have to not only inform yourself of the significant changes, but you have to also then understand what those changes are.
I’ve tried to design this certificate so that it’s not purely theoretical – we reach out and contextualize where design thinking goes. We’ve designed a robust practicum. The last course will include a project that students can use as part of their portfolio, which I think is very important for a lot of students.
What can students expect from studying design thinking online?
Teaching online can be as rich and rewarding as it is in-person. And you can connect people in different time zones and different countries. The very last lesson sets you up for success in working in groups. It's about leveling the playing field and getting people to understand each other.
What other transferable skills can students gain from the Design Thinking in Practice certificate?
The ability to know how to collaborate and the ability to work in groups. And just being more creative. Relying on just expertise to solve problems is definitely one way to do it, but it’s only one way. I think when you have expertise and you combine it with creativity, it becomes a very powerful weapon.
Check out the first class in the certificate, Introduction to Design Thinking.