LTU Collaboratory engages in 'design thinking' during May 8 session

DESIGN THINKING. What is it, exactly? And more importantly, how can design thinking influence the way you work and solve problems?


On Tuesday, May 8, you'll have the chance to find out.


Lawrence Technological University's Collaboratory will host the third session in its "Innovation by Design" talk series. The topic, "Spotting Opportunity in Plain Sight," will explore how our perceptions affect our methods of innovation, and how we can overcome limitations to better understand our customers and their needs.


"Design thinking is a problem-solving methodology that borrows from the toolkit of designers. There is a certain approach and process they use when they are designing," says Marc Bolick, managing partner of DesignThinkers Group USA, the Greenville, South Carolina based organization that runs the talk series.


Complex or simple, design thinking can be summed up as a purposeful way of creating a desired future state, Bolick says.


"The critical thing about design thinking is it is human-centered," he says. "It's about making sure you center solutions on the needs of the people you are designing for. It sounds obvious, but it's ironically not the way most people, teams, and organizations do their design."


It's about empathy for others


The concept of empathy is a core principle to design thinking, and in essence, flips the perspective to the customer's point of view very early in the design process. In this way, it's about providing solutions to problems customers aren't yet aware they have.


Design thinking can be applied to many customer-focused situations. It is effective, for example, for human resources professionals, whose customers are a body of employees or trainees, for government departments whose customers are citizens, and for large enterprises, whose customers are typical consumers.Marc Bolick


Yet another aspect of design thinking is the concept of creating an early, low-resolution prototype of your product, getting feedback on it, and working collaboratively with your customers to improve the design to meet their needs. This is critical to those connected to the LTU Collaboratory, an accelerator specifically for those who manufacture usable products.


For LTU Collaboratory members specifically, design thinking overlaps with customer journey mapping and customer discovery, says Mark Brucki, LTU Collaboratory executive director.


"We piloted a couple of initiatives on design thinking and saw that it produced results," says Brucki. "So, we engaged the DesignThinkers Group to help facilitate more programming that we could offer through the Collaboratory for this region."


The series also served as a test ground to gauge interest in more in-depth future fee-based sessions. Brucki says the interest level is high enough to offer a full-day workshop, which they have planned for June 8.


"It's key that we provide tools to participants to be able to use on the following day when they go to work," he says. The philosophy fits well with the Collaboratory's goal of helping members accelerate business growth and facilitate opportunities for innovation. "Is this appealing to different industries and different sized organizations? We learned that the answer is yes."


Overall, design is critically important to Detroit as a region, says Brucki. He points out that in 2015, Detroit was named City of Design by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the very first U.S. city to earn this distinction. And it's a hat that fits, not just in the obvious automotive industry, but in architecture, interior, graphic, and product design, or design for manufacturability.


Terri Burch"I'm very excited about the collaboration with LTU," says Terri Burch, service manager with DesignThinkers Group. "As a Detroiter, I'm excited that it's been named the UNESCO City of Design, and happy to help LTU support the designation in our region and leverage what that means for all of us, as well as support LTU's target market of booming product-based manufacturers in the area, with tools that help achieve that goal and that mission."


"Once you decide to open your mind to [design thinking], it's fairly seductive," says Bolick. "It's a purposeful choice because it connects you with other people. We are social beings, and when people are able in their professional lives to connect what they are doing to others in a direct way, it's motivation and satisfying and profound."


Learn more about LTU Collaboratory, DesignThinkers Group, and register for the May 8 session.
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Read more articles by Claire Charlton.

Fascination drives Claire Charlton to write features and profiles. Always interested in people and their stories, Claire is dedicated to the art of interviewing. A freelancer for a dozen years, Claire writes about health, fitness, business and fun. When she’s not writing, drinking coffee or hanging with her family, Claire runs endurance events, practices yoga, and volunteers with lots of nonprofits.