According to the Wall Street Journal (watch the video) D-Schools are hot and B-Schools are not. The WSJ is acknowledging an important trendh within B-Schools that has been growing in popularity for a few years. While it’s true that a few forward thinking business schools, most notably the Rotman School of Business (U of Toronto) and the Weatherhead School (Case Western) have integrated design thinking into their curriculum, the vast majority of business schools are still offering the same traditional courses and career paths for their MBA students. Moving to a design thinking influenced curriculum makes good sense because more businesses are making use of design thinking and looking to hire those who can bring more of these skills to their companies. At my own institution, the Fox School of Business includes the Center for Design and Innovation, where the faculty are exploring the intersection of design and business, and exposing the newest MBA students to the design inquiry process, a variant on design thinking.
While the video does point out that some B-Schools are providing a mix of design thinking and business thinking, it emphasizes that D-Schools may be the new B-Schools. Students who may have opted for an MBA in the past now want to be designers – especially designers who work at companies like Apple, Google or Facebook. They want to mix their business knowledge with the problem solving methods used by designers. The Stanford D-School is probably the hottest D-School right now, and perhaps it’s no surprise that there are many connections between the school and IDEO. I have participated in several of the D-School’s one-hour webinars, and have learned some great things about design thinking from their faculty members.
It’s great that business schools are recognizing the value of design thinking – and that business people are recognizing the value of attending D-Schools. Perhaps now is the right time for L-Schools (Library) and I-Schools (Information) to take a closer look into this trend, and consider how to integrate design thinking into the curriculum that prepares future library professionals. I made this suggestion in a post a few years ago, and there was a mixed reaction – everything from “Who is he to tell us how to design our curriculum” to “Sounds like an interesting idea” to “I’m already doing this”. The lack of enthusiasm for my suggestion was likely owing to a lack of familiarity with design thinking. Courses on library instruction, human-computer interaction or usability studies may include some elements of design, but it would be completely different to integrate design thinking philosophy into the curriculum – so that every graduate has internalized the design inquiry process as a problem-solving methodology. As a result of that post, I was asked to participate in an ALISE conference panel focusing on design in the LIS curriculum – thanks to those faculty who were open to the possibilities. Clearly there is opportunity here. To my way of thinking, the first LIS program that successfully merges design thinking and library science will establish a distinct advantage in the field. As a starting point, take a closer look at how B-Schools are integrating design thinking into their curriculum and why they are doing it. Even better, make a visit to the Stanford D-School.
This post is not intended as a critique of our LIS programs. There are great programs turning out high quality graduates. I do think the LIS program that breaks new ground by integrating design thinking and philosophy into the curriculum will establish a real advantage over the programs that stay the course. We need LIS graduates with those traditional skills that prepare them for library work. We have a greater need for students who are savvy problem solvers. With the wicked problems confronting the library profession, we need colleagues who can design elegant solutions. Design thinking skills could help our future librarians be the kind of problem solvers and decision makers that can tackle any challenging no matter what area of librarianship is involved. That’s what design thinkers do – they figure out what the real problem is and design a solution. Perhaps some L-Schools and I-Schools will seriously look into the D-School trend, with an intent to use it as a model for future curriculum development. If the goal is to create better libraries, should’t it start with how we prepare future librarians? In the meantime, is it possible that more libraries will just start hiring D-School graduates? I think some already are or will do so soon.