IBM Offers Free Design Thinking Training to MSU Community

If Google Trends is any indicator, people are about three times as curious about “design thinking” as they were five years ago. So what’s all the fuss about?

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“Design thinking” is having a moment. Once the purview of engineers, creatives, and (unsurprisingly) designers, the phrase has become ubiquitous where people are untangling complex problems. If Google Trends is any indicator, people are about three times as curious about “design thinking” as they were five years ago. So what’s all the fuss about? If you work or study at MSU, you can answer that question at no cost, with a course delivered by one of the world’s foremost design giants.

IBM is offering a suite of online courses that take participants through a comprehensive design thinking journey. The introductory offering, The Practitioner Course, is a perfect interactive overview of the fundamentals of human centered-design concepts. Thanks to a collaboration with MSU’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology, MSU students, faculty, and staff can enroll in IBM’s Practitioner Course and learn the principles that make design thinking different from other problem solving approaches.

“Understanding how to make thinking visible through observation, reflection, and prototyping is key to creativity,” says Sarah Gretter, assistant director of the Hub. “This course is a great way for people to familiarize themselves with that process.”

“For me, a big part of design thinking is making sure you’re solving the right problem before solving anything,” says Erik Skogsberg, former assistant director at the Hub, who was instrumental in facilitating MSU’s collaboration with IBM. “It means really spending time with users out in their space and getting a sense of what needs are actually there before jumping to any solutions.”

These principles are the same ones used by incubators, think tanks, and innovation spaces around the world, including the Hub. The Hub is a team of instructional designers, teachers, and researchers that helps other MSU units find solutions to complex problems. Those problems often require unlearning status quo methods of inquiry and problem-solving.

“It’s human nature,” says Skogsberg, “to jump to what’s going to be the easiest thing to do, or to think in a vacuum, versus thinking, ‘Here’s something I’m not even sure is possible, but will get us to where we need to go.’ Design thinking approaches really set up a group to go there, to diverge, to open up possibilities before closing, narrowing, and choosing something that’s just a tick in the same direction.”

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Gretter is confident that the Hub’s partnership with IBM is emblematic of many fruitful future collaborations with trendsetters across multiple industries.

Over the past year, the Hub has worked on redesigning the MSW program in collaboration with the College of Social Science, staffing and curating Science Gallery Detroit, and co-creating My Spartan Story, MSU’s co-curricular record. Crucially, the Hub worked with MSU IT and other campus partners to train thousands of educators in best practices for remote teaching and learning.

The Hub welcomes new opportunities to collaborate.

“A big part of our mission and vision and the nature of the work we do is supporting other units and colleges across campus in designing new learning experiences, navigating change and transformation, and supporting people in working differently,” says Gretter. “For the Hub, the most crucial aspect of collaborating is having partners who are energized about identifying the core challenges we’re meeting together. It’s very tempting to jump into a solution, but we’ve learned that when we follow our process, we get results that are human-centered and effective.”

If you’re interested in collaborating with the Hub, contact Sarah Gretter: sgretter@msu.edu

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MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology

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