If Design Thinking Can Change Management Education…

…then it certainly has the potential to change practices in librarianship. There is a rapid increase in the number of business practitioners exploring how to integrate design thinking into their work, products and services. Quite a few articles in the business literature have documented how a variety of companies are exploring the competitive advantages of design, and how others are making empathic design a critical part of their new product development process. Perhaps the influence of design thinking is no where more significant than in business education. In addition to the advent of design departments and centers for design studies, business educators are incorporating design thinking into their individual courses.

I recently came across a good article that can give you a better sense of how business school leaders are working to integrate design thinking into their curriculums. The authors are David Dunne and Roger Martin, and the article is titled “Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education.” You can find it online in EBSCO Business Premier. It was published in Academy of Managment Learning and Education (V.5 N.4) 2006, p.512. I like the succinct definition of design thinking on the first page of the article. “Design thinking is approaching management problems as designers approach design.” But how do designers approach problems, and can librarians attack their problems and challenges with this approach. Like Tim Brown of IDEO, Roger Martin is a major force in the study of design thinking. As Dean of the Rotman School of Management he has written a number of articles about the value of design thinking.

So to better understand design thinking it helps to understand how designers think and work, and that is where this article can be most helpful. It points out how designers differ in the way they approach problems, particularly in situations where there are constraints. As Martin describes it, designers have the ability to solve “wicked problems” by using abductive logic that enables them to think about what might be, not just what should be or what is. In other words, designers bring a unique form of creativity and collaboration to problem solving. Martin also distinguishes “design thinking” from “design”. Design thinking is the mental process used to design objects, services or systems (all things librarians do), which is separate from the design of the end product.

I enjoy the challenge of reading about and working to better understanding design thinking, so I consider this article a great find. It will take a few more close readings to fully grasp its meaning. I have search alerts on variations of “design thinking” set up for Proquest and EBSCO business databases, which helps me to locate articles on this topic. Most weeks these searches come up mostly empty, but this week brought forward a good catch.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

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