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The Business of Design: Designing Education

Posted By Michael Westcott, Monday, March 10, 2014
A 19th Century Institution
The silos and conventions of college, secondary and primary education have not evolved fundamentally in hundreds of years. It is no secret that the education system is under great pressure to change. A recent McKinsey paper points out that “only six in ten students at four-year institutions are graduating within six years today. Most employers say graduates lack the skills they need and tuition has risen far faster than inflation or household earnings for two decades…” (A painful truth I am experiencing firsthand.) This is leaving many with tremendous debt and even more questions about the value of a college education in the 21st century.

It’s time for a redesign.

MOOCS & The Design Challenge: New Business Models
The recent excitement around Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has yielded little beyond hype presently, with a few notable exceptions like Salman Khan’s Kahn Academy that has turned classroom learning upside down by delivering video lectures at home and using the classroom for interactive coaching and workshop-style applied learning that makes teachers more valuable and the peer-to-peer learning connection more personal. (That sounds a lot like a recipe for design education as well.) Underneath his thousands of online lectures is a beautiful software platform that school systems are now using to track progress and improve learning performance. A perfect combination of the promise of high-tech, high-touch experiences we have always heard about.

The opportunity for design and design thinkers is to help create and facilitate new business and delivery models for education. There are interesting experiments going on globally in graduate design education. I had the enjoyable opportunity to share some thoughts and facilitate a workshop at a recent Harvard Business School (HBS) conference on design. Yes, you heard right, HBS just hosted its first design thinking conference called Harvard By Design. 

Students Driving Change: Redesigning the MBA
This conference and another in NYC, the MBA Innovation Summit, was designed and hosted by the design clubs from Yale, Columbia and Wharton, which brought together business leaders, students and faculty from across the country.

There are many progressive academics all around the world who have been studying and prototyping next generation MBA curriculum. From Cambridge to Copenhagen to Cincinnati to China, design thinking is rapidly becoming a part of MBA education to help generate more creative leaders who are comfortable using both sides of their brain to drive business. And in this time of disruption and rapid change, what the world needs is more creative leadership across the board, especially in Washington, DC.

“Let the future happen to you or take the opportunity to create it.”

The role of employers in redesigning professional education is already attracting huge investments by global corporations and the need for schools to rethink their business models has become urgent. To quote André Dua from McKinsey & Company, “the cost–value equation will shift so rapidly in the years ahead, and employers will develop so great a stake in the new system they help design, that millions of students will probably flourish without ever setting foot on traditional campuses.”

Educating Design Thinkers for the Next Economy

It is this very challenge that has driven DMI to embark upon a research program to map the needs of design management and design thinking and graduate design education in the future through a series of conversations with students and thought leaders from business and education. These conversations have started this month, and we invite you to join or host a conversation. I will share a discussion guide and an overview of the program to date.


DMI will also hold our first DMI:FutureED Summit in conjunction with the IDSA’s International Conference in Chicago on Aug. 20, 2013.  There, we will paint the landscape of graduate design education and document the hiring needs that businesses have for more creative leaders in the future.

Tags:  design education  design mba  futurED 

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