What do Apple, GM, and P&G share? Design.
Companies increasingly are turning to design to boost the bottom line, but the transformation isn't always easy.
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Teaching managers how to design remains a work in progress, however. Fred Collopy teaches "how to manage by designing" at Case Western Reserve University's management school in Cleveland. The MBA students create visual representations and practice methods like making prototypes and generating ideas. Class time includes studio sessions that combine statistical analysis with continually sketching alternatives. The emphasis is not on problem solving but on how to twist a problem to see it from different points of view and speculate on offbeat solutions.Skip to next paragraph
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Design schools are also teaching skills to apply in the business world. Syracuse University's School of Art and Design program prods students to come up with ideas for a breakthrough product or service. Students develop their inspiration through brainstorming, making prototypes, and role-playing scenarios, then hone their pitch to attract investors.
While US schools lag behind several Asian countries in science and math test results, the United States gets high marks for inspiring creativity. Top-ranked math nations like Singapore, China, South Korea, and Hong Kong are trying to hybridize the best of the US approach with their disciplined, rote-based learning. Starting in 2012, China's Ministry of Education is expected to send 40,000 teachers to the US to observe high schools with the aim of learning how to encourage creativity and innovation.
"If you put the two systems together," says Mel Schiavelli, president of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, "it's probably a world-beater education system."
Yet with the current emphasis on test-taking and state budget deficits that cut art and music classes, the US educational system is tacking in the opposite direction, says Mr. Martin of Rotman. "It's a tragedy we're taking all the resources out of broad education and putting them into the narrowest possible goal of graduating all these scientists and engineers. That's about as wrong as you can be."