Design thinking is what Forbes magazine calls a “unified framework for innovation,” a process of channeling the ideas and creativity of a group or team to create a tangible product based upon the following principles:
The process has been developed by Stanford University’s Design School, known as d.school.
The Mount Mary connection
In 2013, Doug Dietz, Lead Innovation Architect at GE, personally trained over 35 community members from Mount Mary. Based on this experience, Mount Mary developed its own design thinking workshops and over 100 employees have gone through these workshops. Design thinking has been adapted and applied in various courses as well as throughout administrative areas.
Doug gave us the context and tools we needed to take a design thinking approach to every aspect of our university,” said Debra Dosemagen, Chair of Education Department. “Changes started immediately from how we lead meetings to including creativity in our mission statement.
Student artwork from Mount Mary’s art therapy students is displayed at the GE Healthcare Menlo lab in Pewaukee, a tangible sign of the Mount Mary/Menlo connection. Mount Mary art therapy students created large-scale photographs that portray empathy. They line the walls of the hallways connecting the lab space to other GE offices.
“Doug has planted the seeds of creativity at Mount Mary, which continue to bear the fruits of innovation and social change,” said Eileen Schwalbach, president of Mount Mary University.
Doug’s work and GE’s Menlo Lab
Here, designers and engineers work side-by-side to develop and redesign medical diagnostic equipment, from the idea stage into early prototypes.
The walls are lined with cubicle dividers that serve as giant bulletin boards, and are covered with sketches, mockups and photos of ideas in various stages of development. There’s plenty of room for collaboration in the open workspace. One wall of the meeting room is a patchwork of Post-It notes, a remnant of the “ideation stage” of design thinking.
As ideas are refined and take shape, designers tack pictures and sketches on the wall and in a nearby “maker space” that resembles a high school shop classroom. Using tools, 3-D printers and cardboard, they create rough models to visualize how these future products would look, feel and interact with the people who use them.
It is a surprisingly low-tech approach to designing highly sophisticated equipment, and purposely so, said innovation architect Doug Dietz.
“We get the ideas out in low-fidelity so we can take them out without getting too vested,” he said.
Observers wanting to view the design thinking process in action pass through the Menlo lab by the dozens; many GE teams come participate in training programs that also take place in the Menlo meeting room adjacent to the workspace.
There are a number of other Menlo labs at GE Healthcare offices worldwide*, but the Pewaukee location is the flagship, and For example, 275 of GE’s summer interns will be trained here over the course of the summer.
The Menlo lab took its inspiration from Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory in New Jersey.
*Other GE Menlo labs modeled after the Pewaukee lab include locations in France, Japan and India; there are also two locations in China.