How Do You Get Students to Design Without Fear? Ask Them to Fail!

Global design consultancy firm IDEO is featuring a recent Johnson Leadership Programs-organized workshop on design thinking on its website as a part of the firm’s current “Open IDEO” challenge. Open IDEO is an open innovation platform that seeks to bring people together from across the globe to address pressing social challenges.

How Do You Get Students to Design Without Fear? Ask Them to Fail!

Twenty Johnson students participated in the October 4, 2013, to October 5, 2013, workshop, “Leading Innovation through Design Thinking,” which is highlighted on the Open IDEO blog. The intensive two-day session was offered as a part of Johnson Leadership Programs’ Leadership Skills Program workshop series, which offers supplemental workshops that complement the school’s leadership curriculum.

design thinking

The workshop was taught by Tracy Brandenburg and Sirietta Simoncini, two faculty members in Systems Engineering at Cornell, and was designed to give the Johnson participants robust training in the complete design thinking cycle of empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The students spent the two days working on Open IDEO’s current challenge, which asks teams to submit their ideas on the question: “At a time when our world faces unprecedented challenges, how might we ensure that young people practice their creative confidence today so that they have a shot at becoming successful leaders tomorrow?”

Brandenburg says that she and Simoncini were so inspired by the Johnson students that she decided to share their experiences at Johnson on the Open IDEO blog. In her post, Brandenburg explains that at the workshop, she and Simoncini were both teachers and students.

“So how did we–the class professors– become the students? Because our ‘teachers’ gave some insightful lessons that we hadn’t considered as educators. For example, one notion is to consider not just celebrating failure, but insisting on it! When asked to fail, something magical happens–students design without fear.”

Interim Leadership Programs Director Ingrid Jensen says the impetus for the workshop grew from a desire to enhance leadership programming around creativity. “We know that being able to create environments that foster creativity and innovation are core competencies required of any leader in the 21st century. This workshop gave students crucial hands-on training in tools they can take to their post-MBA employers that will enable them to lead teams that need to innovate.”

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