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April 3, 2018

On the weekend of Feb. 23-24, the Lazaridis Executive Master’s in Technology Management (EMTM) program welcomed Sara Beckman, Earl F. Cheit Faculty Fellow from the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, to lead the cohort in a weekend dedicated to innovative design thinking.

Beckman teaches new product development and operations management but her research lies in the general area of innovation management, specifically in the of the role of design in business, environmental supply management, and development of operations strategy.

On Friday, the EMTM learners engaged in the fundamental elements of design thinking. These principles and concepts were put into practice on Saturday as the class undertook several exercises designed for implementing knowledge in an accessible and reusable way. Beckman previously worked for Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) as director of the Product Generation Change Management Team and was responsible for supporting strategic decision making, workforce planning and design, and many other areas of the organization. She instructed the exercises to demonstrate the linkages between design thinking in practice, and real world implementation.

Themes of the weekend included empathy, customer experience and continual feedback for product improvement. These emotion-centred themes haven’t historically been considered valuable in academia, research or business practice, however this boot camp aimed to expose the imperative nature of these humanistic themes towards creating and providing an exceptional product and therefore a lucrative business. Research informed the idea that businesses thrive when they are centred around people not profit, and the boot camp helped learners draw the connection between the ideas and research, and how to bring this into their organization to promote institutional growth and drive profit.

“The Lazaridis EMTM program has several boot camps, a few of which focus primarily on design and innovative thinking. This particular boot camp really demonstrates the possibility of catalyzing academic research with practical implementation, which is the pedagogical vision of the program,” said Hamid Noori, executive director of the Lazaridis EMTM. “Dr. Beckman does a really exceptional job at creating an environment where our learners are able to participate in this special two day session showing how design thinking and cross functional analysis is useful in everything from personal goal setting to major corporate strategy. I feel our learners truly received an experience that they will surely see the benefit of on Monday morning.”

To highlight the significance of design thinking in both professional and personal settings, the learners finished the weekend with a personal exercise encouraging them to remember goals they had set for themselves five years prior to beginning the Lazaridis EMTM program. Reconciling the differences between dreams and realities, learners spent time planning what they hoped the next five years would hold for their lives; did these goals coincide with their values system? What resources were needed to achieve these sometimes lofty goals? What might need to be willingly or reluctantly sacrificed to achieve these goals? These plans showed the possibility of design thinking outside of the corporate context, and ended the weekend session with an activity that truly reflects the flexibility and practicality of a design thinking approach to problem solving.

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