"When we use the word 'design', many people automatically think we are talking about the graphic arts. In business and industry, design thinking goes way beyond that."

With characteristic boldness, Cogswell President Brian Shepard welcomed a group from the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce on campus for a workshop in which they would learn to engage groups of people to actively describe a solution to a pressing problem. "It's all about examining a problem through eyes of people throughout an organization, such that everyone contributes to a unique solution that is right for that group."

DesignThinking Group
Cogswell College President, Brian  Shepard leads a workshop on Design Thinking

Drawing out What's Most Important

Brian seated the 30 or so attendees around tables and provided them with paper and Sharpies. He introduced the idea of drawing out systems using a series of nodes and links. "We all have systems we use at work, and sometimes we expect people to jump into the middle of one of them when they might not be entirely comfortable with it", he said. "Yet, everyone has their own unique experience to draw from and to express. With this method, of physically drawing pictures and connecting those pictures with lines to show flow, we can take every perspective into account."

By creating an environment for these business owners and managers to break even trivial processes into their component elements, the "Design Thinking... and Beyond" workshop was offered to help participants discover a new level of efficiency and engagement along with methods they could take back to their own organizations. "Each small group has their optimal system", said Dr. Shepard. "It was great to see how everyone weighed in. Everyone agreed. Then, each group was able to contribute what worked best for them into an overall system that takes into account all the needs of each group."

"Everyone has their own unique experience to draw from and to express."

individual work
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The results were remarkable

For this group of business owners and managers, the takeaways were tangible and potentially dramatic. They were impressed by the speed at which an entire system can be described, without missing essential components and without becoming overly complex and burdened with too many instructions.

"It was so much fun to engage everyone so completely. I loved seeing how these practices can be put in place anywhere, that anyone can be part of making a difference," said Marcia Shea, an independent associate for Legal Shield.

"We are currently getting involved in South Africa, and I am excited to use what I have learned here to help us do that," said Irene Kimura, who along with her husband distribute Nu Skin anti-aging products.

Joe Grasso, president of Joe Grasso Elite Training, said "I was impressed how I could contribute to the overall system. I feel that I helped improve the system and I can see how valuable this method is for helping organizations adapt when times change."

"This was a fun workshop", said Barry Harper, Vice President of Business Development for the Mlnarik Law Group. "Before this session, none of us had any experience practicing design thinking or even knew what it meant. I think it's clear that now we see it applies to any organization, not only big businesses."