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Hannah Davies on Design Thinking September 30, 2009

Posted by Hannah Davies in Design Thinking.

What I loved in these two readings was the proposition that innovation and ideas generation does not happen best by a lone individual with a genius creative mind, but by a team of people with complementary but vastly different approaches to learning, thinking and expressing ideas. And also that even learning styles are learned! Rather than being born with a talent for generating ideas, or for technical tasks, or assimilating and ordering information, instead your environment, experiences and education can all help to shape your individual learning preference. This idea has a huge impact on understanding the role of a leader in an organization too, since it could suggest that those best at providing vision and direction are the ‘chameleons’ – the people who are best at adapting their learning style to the demands of a particular situation, cycling through the full innovation process to generate the most appropriate solution. It could also suggest that the best leaders are those who are most adept at identifying people’s different learning styles, bringing them together and managing the tensions and frustrations inherent within a disparate team to ensure each contributes equally to the innovation process.
The other theme that struck a chord was the description of the ethnographic method of consumer research, particularly understanding meaning through observing and understanding culture. Can there be any better place in the world to be an active participant observer than at Haas, when the class has come from all over the globe? Reading the description of participant observation, it seemed to me to describe exactly what happens at Haas as a normal element of daily living. I’m constantly caught out by my assumptions of what is universally known vs what is culturally unique – words or phrases I presume everyone uses and which turn out to be colloquial; attitudes, activities and habits I have always thought to be the norm and which in fact are anything but; and the privilege of participating in fellow classmates’ cultural and religious traditions. Maybe that’s partly why Haas attracts a high number of innovative, entrepreneurial students!



1. Sara Beckman - November 28, 2009

Another way to think about the leadership question is to imagine that different people should lead a team through different parts of a process – matching their learning style to the part of the process where it is best needed. Why not let an assimilator lead the process during the framing and reframing stage? Does there need to be just one leader?

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