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Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Design Thinking Course Helps CEIBS MBAs Unleash their Creativity

June 29, 2017. Shanghai – With companies in a constant race to innovate, executives looking for ways to inject more creativity into their work may want to go back to kindergarten advises CEIBS Associate Dean and MBA Programme Director Prof. Juan Fernandez. “Forget about all the theories you have learned and be a child that loves playing and is full of novel ideas and keen on exploration,” he says in explaining the idea behind the new Creativity and Design Thinking elective course he has developed that was held today for the current batch of CEIBS MBA students.

The sight of 40 MBAs cutting and pasting coloured paper, working with clay, and drawing on whiteboards might give the impression that this is simply an art class, but Prof. Fernandez explains the reason for this unconventional classroom exercise: creativity plays an important role in social and economic development. “The Chinese economy has grown to a crucial turning point where the transition from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’ is taking place. Companies and individuals have to be creative in order to stay competitive,” he says.

Prof. Fernandez explains that everyone is full of creativity during their childhood, but traditional education, which attaches so much importance to logical analysis, reasoning and calculation, gradually curbs its development. This new course is designed to help students rediscover their own innate creativity and cultivate their design thinking.  

During the class, Prof. Fernandez led the students through five key steps to developing design thinking. They are:

- Be empathetic and try to understand users’ needs through observation or interviews;

- Define what has been known and observed in order to find effective solutions;

- Brainstorm to come up with as many solutions as possible;

- Choose the best solution, create a model, and use it to explain the feasibility of the solution;

- Test the model, collect feedback and adjust the model accordingly.

To help the students get a better understanding of how to use design thinking, Prof. Fernandez asked them to think about the problems airline passengers encounter while waiting for a flight. Through simulated interviews and role-playing, the students came up with a few problems then summarized, defined, and discussed them. They then worked together to use craft materials to create objects that would provide solutions for the passengers. These included game boxes, a do-not-disturb seating area, and five-legged massage armchairs. After testing their products they discussed the results.

The course concluded with Prof. Fernandez and his teaching assistant, Maria Puyuelo, sharing suggestions for cultivating creativity and design thinking at both an individual and corporate level. They said we can all spend more time observing creative professionals (e.g. artists and photographers) or making art, and challenge ourselves to experience and explore more new things by travelling, trying new foods, and communicating with different people. Parents can guide their children to discover new hobbies and strengths, and encourage them to try more new things to improve their creativity. Companies must first build an environment that encourages innovation. Taking the example of high-tech companies like Google, this means everyone should work together instead of working alone. Next, companies should implement leadership styles that allow staff to work freely and display their creativity. They should also institute practices such as note taking and establishing a regular process for sharing ideas.    

Darren Yue
Janine Coughlin