Design thinking is a powerful tool for devising strategic interdisciplinary or entrepreneurial initiatives, permitting connections between concepts, methods and shifts of perspective that would otherwise be overlooked in a mono-disciplinary ‘problem-solving’ approach. Originating in design, but capable of being applied across a broad range of disciplines, design thinking brings a disruptive, game-changing potential to ways of working that have become routine. People naturally have the ability for design thinking – it deploys the associative, improvisatory logic of play – but are typically encouraged to suppress it in favour of more dependable yet limited problem-solving methodologies.
For entrepreneurs who value the pursuit of validity and innovation over tradition and repetition, this course will equip you with the core skills for furthering such aims. It takes a practice-led approach, teaching design thinking skills through a mix of lectures, workshops and assignments. Having acquired the fundamentals of design thinking, students are then encouraged to explore ways of extending the established techniques – incorporating elements from, for example, other creative and design disciplines such as plotting, characterisation, visualisation, role-playing, story-boarding and experience prototyping.
As the course focuses on themes and speculative, post-critical prototyping of actual “wicked” problems, teaching is conducted in an interactive manner with participants expected to take an active role throughout the course.
Intended learning outcomes
The purpose of this course is to teach PhD, MFA, MSc, and MA students the advanced methods for design thinking. The learning outcomes for the course are for the participants to be able to independently:
- Acquire and execute design thinking methods
- Evaluate and organise the concepts such a methodology generates
- Discuss and critically assess the strengths, weaknesses and innovative potential of proposals from course colleagues
- Develop, document and articulate a coherent design proposal based on results generated
- Demonstrate how design thinking can change and enlarge the student’s own disciplinary ‘world view’
- Develop and argue for an interdisciplinary entrepreneurial initiative inspired by the design thinking process
In a recent Op ed article titled “End the University as We Know It”, Mark Taylor criticises the mass-production university model for “ever-increasing specialisation” leading to “separation where there ought to be collaboration”. This in turn leads to knowledge that becomes self-serving rather than adapted to current needs – “Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences,” Taylor writes, “but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems.” This recalls the economist Friedrich Hayek’s observation in The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945) that “Each member of society can have only a small fraction of the knowledge possessed by all, and each is therefore ignorant of most of the facts on which the working of society rests… civilisation rests on the fact that we all benefit from knowledge which we do not possess. And one of the ways in which civilisation helps us to overcome that limitation on the extent of individual knowledge is by conquering ignorance, not by the acquisition of more knowledge, but by the utilisation of knowledge which is and which remains widely dispersed among individuals.” Hence the appeal of design thinking in an interdisciplinary context.
Design thinking – a practical, cross disciplinary methodology – is one expression of our focus shifting from the object (artefact, collection or archive – library or database), towards information, including the question how expertise is actualised (performed, articulated) in practice. Such an approach changes the terms by which we describe, and conceive of, our various knowledge concepts and this in turn affects the way we set about what we call, at the Experience Design Group, disruptive innovation. As Jack Burnham writes in Systems Aesthetics “We are now in transition from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented culture. Here change emanates, not from things, but from the way things are done.”
This course arises from a belief in the central relevance of design thinking to a range of disciplines, and the corresponding belief that “designers should be critical thinkers and strategists first, capable of addressing cross-disciplinary problems by designing the social, political, economic and educational ‘systems’ that give them greater reach, responsibility, influence and relevance.” This is a more expanded role for the designer than simply that of problem-solver; the problem-solver typically works within narrowly prescribed limits, while the creative entrepreneurs that this course addresses must be highly skilled in synthesising information from a diverse range of knowledge traditions. Why? Because they face problems that are neither predictable nor simple, but rather highly complex – as Julie Thompson Klein has noted, “the art of being a professional is becoming the art of managing complexity.” Design thinking is thus well positioned to make meaningful contributions to today’s wicked problems and entrepreneurial opportunities since it develops the capacity to speculate critically where compelling breakthrough knowledge is likely to occur.
Teaching and learning activities
The course combines lectures with seminar discussions, workshops, group and individual presentations by the students as well as leaders in the field.
Grades and form of assessment
The ﬁnal grade will be based on:
- The student’s interdisciplinary entrepreneurial proposal, its ﬁnal presentation and documentation of how design thinking has led to this result
- The grading you receive from your team members, and an evaluation of the way in which you give and motivate the grades you give yourself and your team members
- Successful completion of the individual assignments
Attendance is mandatory.
The course language is English.
The course is offered within the framework of the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship.
Responsible institution: Stockholm School of Economics
Literature and teaching aids
Literature will be announced in connection to the start and communicated to enrolled students.