The First Apple Mouse and a Better Pit Latrine: Why We Love Design Thinking

July 31, 2013 at 8:41 am 1 comment

Most blogs would probably lead an article like this with the title Learn the secret formula behind the most successful products and services in the world! And while IDEO’s approach to design thinking has certainly led to some iconic products, such as the first Apple mouse, it’s not exactly a secret. In fact, it’s available for free, right here, and through a fantastic  +Acumen online course. The secret, if there is one, is how widespread the use of design thinking has become among successful social entrepreneurs.

IDEO’s Human-Centered Design (HCD) Toolkit has been used by organizations including the Acumen Fund, Heifer International, VisionSpring and the Red Cross to create more effective products and services for some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Products like cheap and sanitary pit latrines, services like blood donor systems; all designed with the end user’s needs, and preferences, in mind.

The HCD Toolkit breaks down the design thinking process into three parts: Hear, Create, and Deliver (somehow, I don’t think those initials are a coincidence):

  • Hearing the stories of your clients and end users is an essential first step to make certain you clearly understand their problem before you attempt a solution.
  • Creation encompasses brainstorming a number of approaches, prototyping and testing a select few with clients, then selecting the most appropriate solution.
  • Delivery is not just the launch of your new product or service, but also the process of developing a sustainable revenue stream, measuring your impacts, and continually refining your approach.

At Portland State University’s (PSU) Impact Entrepreneurs, we think this approach is so valuable that we’re both teaching it and using it ourselves. We’re working with other PSU faculty and staff to create a design thinking cluster for all undergraduate students, as well as building it into our social entrepreneurship courses, field studies, and new online certificate program. We’re even using design thinking to create the certificate itself, utilizing the HCD Toolkit and other resources such as the Design Thinking for Educators package.

Over the next few months, we’ll be detailing the certificate design process in this blog, in real time. No secret formula here: stay tuned to learn how design thinking can be used in an academic setting, and to join a conversation with us around creating the best possible social entrepreneurship certificate. We look forward to hearing from you, creating with you, and delivering a great program to you.

A sneak peek at the design process for our certificate modules. (Module names are temporary!)

A sneak peek at our certificate design process. (Names are temporary!)

By Jacen Greene, Ames Fellow for Social Entrepreneurship at Portland State University

Entry filed under: Design Thinking, Social Entrepreneurship. Tags: , , , , .

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