Design has been a part of the business school curriculum for years now, although you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of that. Lately, though, top business schools have begun launching new design programs or revamping old ones in an attempt to retool their offerings for a world where design innovation often separates the winners from the losers.
“There’s a lot of competition in the world today,” says Richard Buchanan, chairman of the department of design and innovation at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management, which kicked off on July 1. “Lots of organizations were designed for a different, previous time. There’s a need for a change in thinking.”
Buchanan and other educators argue that design and business make for natural bedfellows because together they fuse creativity and innovation. One without the other, says Buchanan, makes products and services a harder sell.
Weatherhead’s new department serves all the business school programs. The idea was to integrate elements of design education in courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, says Buchanan. One example is the yearlong Design in Management course that includes MBA students and those from other disciplines, including law and engineering, to work on consulting projects with corporate sponsors.
At the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School teamed up with the School of Design and the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences to launch a Masters in Integrated Product Design (MIPD) degree this fall. Initiated by the School of Design, this program is for those who are interested in design but lack engineering backgrounds, reports the Daily Pennsylvanian, a student newspaper. Previously, students could apply for a masters of engineering in product design.
The new Wharton program is an example of how design is going mainstream at the elite business school, where the subject previously received limited air time in class. Jerry Wind, a professor of marketing at Wharton, says he has used elements of design over the past 30 years when teaching product development, and he uses them in a creativity course he teaches. In the Wharton Fellows Program, chief executives tackle design problems such as creating a completely new organization.
One of the hallmarks of the design-meets-business trend is an integration among schools on a campus. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business recently announced an overhaul of its MMM program with the School of Engineering & Applied Science. The new program will make its debut in June 2014.
In the 2.0 version of this program, which dates back to 1991, students will be taking four more credit hours for a total of seven quarters, as opposed to the original six, to earn degrees from both schools. There will also be a deeper focus on design, which is particularly relevant to technology, says Greg Holderfield, co-director of the Masters in Management & Manufacturing (MMM) program. Additional courses will emphasize project management, programming design, service design, applied advanced analytics, innovation frontiers, organizing for innovation, and design networks.
Ultimately, says Holderfield, the program teaches students “to find problems and then solve problems.”
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