Thursday, August 20, 2015

College Students & Design Thinking

Design can help to improve our lives in the present.  Design thinking can help us chart a path into the future.
-Tim Brown, Change By Design, p. 149

Mounting Challenges For College Students

This fall college bound students face a growing number of challenges.  The following three are just a few among that growing number:

1) Financing the ever-increasing costs of college education
   (Tuition, books, living expenses, etc.)

2) Gaining valued work experience
   (High-Demand Skills, Coaching/Mentoring, Interning Experience, etc.)

3) Balancing responsibilities
   (studies, work, family life and other commitments, etc.)

For a number of years, traditional higher education has worked on answers to these challenges with little progress.  But alas, long established business models change slowly in any industry and higher education is no exception.  Thinking outside the box is difficult when ingrained methods have become second nature, if not addictive.  Attempts by government over the last several years have also made little progress in  coming up with significant business model innovations; innovations that address the ever-increasing cost of post secondary learning and its attendant challenges.

It's long overdue for processes capable of producing favorable personalized outcomes for students in higher education.  Out-dated approaches in how learning is delivered continue to hamstring millions in achieving and maintaining competence and prosperity in an ever-changing world.  Innovation is the key.  It requires a dynamic mindset; one that generates different thinking and acting in harmony with that thinking.

The Individual & Design Thinking

Moving beyond the established, if not obsolete, business models of higher education requires innovative processes and methods that deliver desired outcomes to individual students; individualized outcomes that provide students with greater flexibility and opportunity to fulfill their dreams and manage their responsibilities.  Design Thinking provides that capability for individuals and organizations alike.

The oft quoted thought attributed to Einstein is apt in suggesting Design Thinking as a process, if not a discipline, to remedy the challenges facing individuals in their pursuit of learning/education:

    The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed
    without changing our thinking.

Design Thinking, for college students and others seeking effective post-secondary learning, opens the door to thinking processes that produce effective, personalized solutions.  It is human-centered, agile and capable of delivering highly personalized solutions to a diverse student population.  It can be learned and applied by large numbers of individuals to accomplish their specified outcomes.  Design Thinking is definitely an innovative process for answering the challenges of learning/education as well as challenges in life.  It is a process for delivering desired outcomes in the 21st Century and beyond.

The Stanford dSchool Model

Among the many Design Thinking Models available, Stanford University's dSchool model provides a good representation of a human-centered Design Thinking process.  It consists of five modes, each serving a particular focus of the process.  I mention it because of its simplicity in understanding the process.

The Empathize Mode
The Define Mode
The Ideate Mode
The Prototype Mode
The Test Mode

Rather than attempt to explain it myself, I refer you to a link that outlines this dynamic process.

Why Design Thinking?

Whether you are just out of high school, in college, or searching for ways to advance your career, Design Thinking is a high-value skill/discipline that adds credibility to your ability to deliver desired results to projects in any situation/environment.

Innovative solutions...?  As mentioned above, answering the ever-increasing cost of post-secondary learning/education, gaining high-value work experience, and balancing your responsibilities can be daunting.  Nevertheless, Design Thinking makes it possible for individuals and organizations alike to answer and satisfy these challenges.

You don't have to wait for the traditional college business model to change for things to get better.  You don't have to wait in line for government programs to solve these pressing issues.  You can begin now by learning and applying Design Thinking to open the doors of opportunity in education or any challenge you face in life.  It puts you in the driver's seat and empowers you to choose and act to achieve your desired outcomes.

Through Design Thinking and an "I Can" mindset of personal initiative, you can change things for the better.

Thinking different makes the difference!

In subsequent posts I will suggest ways you can apply Design Thinking along with Business Model Innovation to help others as well as yourself move forward to a better and more prosperous life in the present and throughout the months and years that lay ahead.

What Do You Think?

As always, your constructive comments are welcomed.  What did you find helpful in the post?  What would make it more valuable to you?

Related Readings

How To Inspire Creativity and Lifelong Learning for Everyone

How Can We Fundamentally Change Higher Ed?

5 New Careers For The 21st Century


Virtual Internship Design is sponsored by Partnering Technologies, a Learning & Development Company focused on your prosperity (Website:  It's founder, Jim Sanderson, can be reached at the following email address:

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