A View From INSEAD

INSEAD’s Design Thinking and Creativity for Business
Programme: Becoming an Innovation Catalyst

Associate professor of technology and management Manuel Sosa

Programme Director of the Design Thinking and Creativity for Business programme

Programme Director Manuel Sosa explains how harnessing the transformational force of design can help you become an innovation catalyst within your organisation

Firstly, how do you define design and design thinking?

Design is much more than design thinking. It’s a discipline that uncovers explicit and latent customer needs, then generates and visualises solutions to address them. What’s more, it does so in an iterative way, finding out what’s not only novel, but also desirable, useful, (technically) feasible, and (economically) viable.

So I see design thinking as a problem-solving approach inspired by these methods. And note that some of those methods are drawn from research in engineering design, creativity management and lean startup practice.

Our new programme teaches participants how to integrate design and business disciplines. Of course, we teach design thinking methods, but we also teach how to work with designers and how to prepare an organisation to exploit the value that design can bring them.

What is INSEAD’s new Design Thinking and Creativity for Business programme all about?

Managing design is fast becoming a key capability of successful enterprises. Understanding what truly matters to the end user – then creating innovative products, services and experiences inspired by this understanding – is at the heart of good design. And this is a skill that business leaders can learn and hone.

Our new programme teaches participants how they can use design thinking to unleash creative capabilities in their organisation, reframing key strategic challenges then delivering innovative, winning solutions.

Tell me more about the link between creativity and business, and why INSEAD participants should be concerned with it.

In a word, it’s about growth. Creativity fuels the innovation that organisations need to achieve sustainable growth, so it’s critical for every business leader – regardless of their industry or role – to invest in developing this capability.

Businesses can grow in many ways. You can grow by being very cost-efficient. You can grow by acquiring other companies. But innovating is really the only way you can grow from within. A business that wants to create value can’t afford to not have this capability.

However, business leaders have to do more than just think differently or search for novelty. They must also have a clear understanding of the purpose that’s fuelling the innovation, knowing precisely what problem they’re solving and for whom.

That’s why in this programme, we focus on the people rather than the technology. Developing that empathy and looking at the insides of the problem has to be coupled with creativity.

By teaching you how to integrate creativity with your business thinking, we aim to help you master the competitive advantage that design can offer.

Why is INSEAD introducing this programme now to the Executive Education portfolio?

In 2005, INSEAD began a partnership with the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California – one of the world’s most influential design schools. Our collaboration brought together MBA [Master of Business Administration] and design students to learn and experience the process of developing innovative products and services, and to discover how they can fuse design innovation with business strategy.

This new programme builds on the wealth of insights and expertise we’ve accumulated over the past decade of this partnership, and extends them to a wider audience.

Does the programme have a specific focus?

Organisations and their business leaders who would like to harness the power of design often struggle to do so for one simple reason: they don’t manage their design initiatives systematically.

Our programme addresses that challenge by looking at how to build a design-driven organisation from the bottom up, where design is a core function rather than an afterthought. We focus on three key areas, starting with understanding design as a process – as a problem-solving approach. Here, participants learn new design-inspired methods for solving problems and innovating.

We also focus on people. Participants learn to understand the special skills that designers as creative people have, and the role people like this could play in their organisation.

Third, we take an organisational perspective. Participants learn how to establish and foster an organisational culture that takes full advantage of design as a discipline, in a way that coexists with their established business disciplines.

What kinds of learning experiences are involved?

There’s a strong focus on experiential learning. For instance, participants team up to tackle ‘innovation challenges’ associated with real-world problems, supported by sustained interaction with ArtCenter designers. We’ve also worked with Eight Inc., a world-class design firm, to design a new space – we call it the ‘Creative Garage’ – at our Singapore campus, where most of the hands-on sessions take place. Part classroom, part workshop, part research centre, it’s a space designed to encourage creativity and empower people to embrace things differently.

At the same time, the programme involves lectures and discussions of case studies from different industries, based on our own research and experience working with organisations in the service and public sectors.

What mindset and managerial levers are crucial to building a design-driven organisation?

Building a design-driven organisational culture which fosters successful innovation means you need to internalise values associated with user-centricity, such as empathy. You also need to internalise the values associated with having an exploratory and curious mindset. That’s an essential part of generating solutions to any given challenge. At the same time, you should not be afraid to fail, although that’s still a mindset many organisations grapple with.

Who’s right for the programme?

You might be a team leader or manager who wants to strengthen your ability to lead innovation and enhance the innovative capabilities of your organisation. Perhaps your organisation operates in a sector that has traditionally been considered non-creative, but now you’re looking to integrate new problem-solving approaches to innovation in your business processes and corporate culture.




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