Design Thinking, Innovation, STEM

A Recipe for Unleashing Creative Design Thinking in Your Teams

Want to hear a recipe for unleashing creative design thinking in your teams to make solutions and products that will work effectively, delight customers while meeting their needs and solving problems? Listen to what GE, MU and MIAD did together recently.

Professor John Caruso from MIAD and I had the privilege of helping GE’s Megan Wimmer, organize participants, plan, and participate in the GE Menlo Innovation Lab’s Design Thinking Bootcamp at GE Healthcare in December 2014. The real work of organizing, planning, and facilitating was done by GE while we just helped find willing participators and a date that worked for everyone. We (Marquette and MIAD faculty and administrators) were hosted by fantastic engineering designers led by Bob Schwartz, GE’s GEM for Global Design and User Experience and his team of world class designers and training facilitators led by renowned GE designer, TEDx speaker and parttime Stanford dSchool instructor, Doug Dietz.  Their team included Megan Wimmer, Emil Georgiev, and Mark Ciesko along with other GE volunteer training facilitators.  Since this summer, I’ve had the honor of working with talented Professor John Caruso, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) faculty, Neil Hoffman, President of MIAD, and our Dean Kris Ropella, Marquette University College of Engineering, on developing our joint program in Design and Engineering between MU and MIAD.  Bob Schwartz and his team set up a one day Design Thinking bootcamp to introduce faculty and students from both institutions on the philosophy, tools and techniques for Design Thinking that we could use to implement our new projects.  It was not a day of boring lectures but a very hands-on interactive flurry of fun and insightful activity.  Here’s the recipe in a nutshell (note, this is not THE recipe but just an example one that was tailor made for us for one day):


  • Large, open “bowl”, or space, free from electronic device distractions
  • A Mix of Engineers, Finance people, Service professionals, students, administrators, and Designers Diverse in their Disciplines and Point of Views
  • Lots of colorful Post-It Notes, big and small
  • Open minds
  • Magazines, scissors, tape, Darth Vader hats, costumes, and miscellaneous toys
  • Facilitators and facilitators in training
  • Set of freshly picked customers from diverse perspectives, roles, and backgrounds
  • Fresh set of imagination and out of the box thinking

Steps by Step Instructions

  • Introduce the Design Thinking Process
  • Spend time to EMPATHIZE with and interviewing real customers from diverse backgrounds
  • DEFINE the problem from the customers’ Point of View by hearing, seeing, and inferring from their words, body language and thoughts to better understand their needs (use generous amounts of Post-It Notes for this)
  • IDEATE by building on others ideas using “Yes, And…” rather than “No, But..”.  Answer the question of “HOW MIGHT WE” meet the customer’s need and solve their problem.  Use large pad to draw, paste, connect ideas.
  • PROTOTYPE solutions and get feedback (lots of it). Use paper, pens, toys, clay, poster board, costumes, actors, etc. to make low-fidelity models of a product or solution. Repeat (iterate) as many times as possible, learning early from failures often rather than later.
  • TEST the solutions on real customers and facilitate continued discussion.
  • Repeat often as needed until well done.

Cooking Utensils (Tools) Needed (from Bob Schwartz and Doug Dietz)

  • “Yes, And”
  • Accept and Add
  • Go for quantity and defer judgement
  • “How might we” (HMW)
  • If you don’t capture it, it didn’t (doesn’t) happen
  • Everyday creativity (DeWitt Jones, DJ)
  • Perspective changes problem to opportunity (DJ)
  • Don’t be scared to make mistakes (DJ)
  • Break the pattern (DJ)
  • We can do more with less
  • Perspective changes the ordinary to the extra ordinary (DJ)
  • Train our technique (DJ)
  • Put self in place of most potential (DJ)
  • Be ready for decisive moments
  • Show people you care and value them
  • Uptick laddering
  • Move from win-lose to win-learn situation
  • Bring a brick, not a cathedral
  • More than one right answer (DJ)

GE Healthcare has had a wonderful collaboration with Marquette University and MIAD in the past.  This workshop hopes to expand our collaboration as we move towards working together to create a program that will capture the imagination of Marquette and MIAD students that want to learn how to have both design and engineering skills to make products that can change the world.

Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D., is a humanoid robotics and AI professor at Marquette University. His recent TEDx talk, Belonging in Technology, What I learned from Steve Jobs, addresses creativity and its relationship to innovation, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


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