Design Thinking and Innovation - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Design Thinking and Innovation

Course Number 1345

Professor Srikant M. Datar
Fall; Q2; 1.5 credits
6 sessions

This course is a prerequisite for enrollment in i-Lab Design Thinking Project (6085)in January to earn 1.5 credits in Winter 2013.

Career Focus

Design thinking and Innovation seeks to develop basic skills in design thinking and innovative problem solving. Design thinking is a methodology of innovation based on a deep understanding of what people want and need. It is relevant to students interested in entrepreneurship but also to students seeking jobs in companies or firms.

Educational Objectives

The course focuses on the manager's or leader's role as an innovator. Innovation has become increasingly important because of the rapid evolution in products and business models.

The core objective of the course is to help students develop design thinking skills including problem finding and problem framing, gaining customer insights, design thinking and innovative problem solving methods and approaches, identifying innovative individuals, forming innovative teams and building innovative cultures.

The course takes the view that design thinking and innovative problem solving is best learned through repeated practice. The course will use exercises, projects, and reflections to explore various methods and approaches to design thinking and innovative problem solving. We will use very few cases.

Students interested in doing an in-depth project to build on their learning can take a separate project course in the January term. The project can be on any topic that a student wishes to explore and can be done in teams. I have also arranged projects with companies for students who might be interested in working on a project but have no project of their own in mind.

Course Content and Organization

The course consists of two modules. The first module is on the techniques of design thinking and innovative problem solving. The second module is on identifying individuals, and building teams and organizations to promote innovation.

Module 1: Design Thinking and Innovative Problem Solving

The module starts with problem framing and problem finding. This turns out to be an important aspect of design thinking because the way a problem is framed often identifies the space of innovative solutions.

At the core of design thinking is developing the skills to understand, observe, and identify what customers want in a product. The key is to develop an actionable point of view that addresses the following questions: Who should be the target users? What do they need? How do you know?

The module will then explore various techniques of brainstorming and idea generation such as mind mapping, nominal group techniques, reversal techniques, rotating attention, lateral thinking, forced relationships, use of analogies, and attribute analysis, used by design firms such as IDEO, Design Continuum, and Systematic Inventive Thinking.

The module will emphasize how designers think their way through a problem to a solution using processes of prototyping, experimenting and iterating that are key to learning, revealing new options and to making decisions. It will emphasize the process of creating new options while eliminating other options and designing and implementing solutions within constraints.

Design thinking is most commonly associated with designing products but this module will also apply ideas of design thinking and innovative problem solving to processes, business models, management, and strategies.

Module 2: Managing Design Thinking and Innovation

The second module asks, "What it means to manage design thinking?" The module teaches students how to identify individuals to put on a design team, the desired characteristics of the team itself, and the leadership and governance processes (including performance measurement) that promote design thinking. The module also helps students understand key aspects of cultures that support design thinking and innovation and the barriers and challenges that often come in the way of effective design thinking.

Grading and Requirements

Students will be graded on the basis of their class participation, class exercises, reflection papers and a project.