Physical model-making as a business model education strategy
Design thinking currently enjoys public recognition and is increasingly utilized in business consulting and strategic decision-making. It has given rise to university programs while opening up varied careers for design strategists. As design enters mainstream management consulting practice, a critical question being asked of educators, designers and businesses is what kind of design is privileged within design thinking-as-business strategy. Moreover, has this version of design thinking delivered additional creativity to business environments centred on process efficiency? Nussbaum (2011) argues that business has embraced a brand of design thinking that is recognizably process-oriented, and this has limited its capacity to deliver on its mission of enhancing business creativity.
This study examines a project delivered in the first semester of Parsons’ Master of Science in Strategic Design and Management program, it is called Understanding-through-making: building new dimensions in the new economy. This practical studio-based project requires students to physically build a model that exemplifies their understanding of the dynamics defining and driving business in the 21st Century. This project attempts to counter a scientific, process-oriented design thinking with a more beaux arts, craft-oriented, thinking-through-making approach. Currently student outcomes are varied; some exist as pedagogic devices while others are recognizable as tools (e.g., navigators and compasses).
The study analyses these current outcomes, highlights the shortcomings of both the current project and its outcomes and proposes possibilities for future iterations that promise to explore other paradigms in the application of design thinking to business.
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