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Author's profile photo Don Ginocchio

SAP and the University of Notre Dame Teach Design Thinking Together


SAP was an active participant in four different University of Notre Dame classes related to Design Thinking this week on campus.  Michael Brown and I had the privilege of presenting to two classes in the Design department of the College of Arts & Letters and later in the week I helped to frame an Innovation & Design challenge for two segments of a class in the Mendoza College of Business.

On Tuesday SAP’s Vice President of Design Michael Brown joined me on campus to help kickoff an exciting new course in design called “Collaborative Product Development” (CPD).  As part of our partnership with Notre Dame, we have agreed to collaborate on teaching the advanced CPD course this semester.  The design challenge is around the future of wearable technology in the enterprise human resources domain so we shared SAP’s point of view on the human resources function, the future of work and wearable technology.  Michael will be making several visits during the semester to help coach and provide feedback to students as they prepare for final project presentations to interested venture capital firms.  The students will be using a classic Design Thinking approach to the challenge and are beginning the discovery phase of the process this month.  This course is taught by Ann-Marie Conrado and the  course description is as follows:

As part of an exciting new initiative, the Collaborative Innovation program highlighting design thinking, a powerful approach for solving real-world problems, the capstone Collaborative Product Development course is a unique experience gathering students in anthropology, business, design and engineering to work and collaborate together on a real-world brief sponsored by an outside corporation. Students work in teams to conceive and develop solutions that address a myriad of needs from the perspectives of users, business and technology in conjunction with feedback from outside sponsors and mentors while learning to collaborate with students of other disciplines in order to develop concepts that are greater than any single discipline can offer. Students explore the mechanics of collaboration while investigating the methodology of design thinking. We are excited to announce that the Fall 2015 course will be sponsored by SAP, the world’s foremost enterprise software company and presented to a star panel of Silicon Valley venture capitalists at the end of the semester. Students are being asked to explore the power of wearables to bring data on demand and reinvent software interaction in the enterprise space. IT Management students will join their peers in Anthropology (consumer insight), Interaction Design (UX design), Industrial Design (product design), and Computer Science (Programming) to conceive, develop and execute a working prototype and present to SAP and venture capitalists.

Michael also presented to underclassmen in a new “Design Matters” course about the importance of Design Thinking.  He emphasized how design focused companies outperform their peers and the importance of Design Thinking skills in many professional disciplines.  The course is taught to freshmen and sophomore students as an introduction to Design Thinking in order to inspire them to learn more and take advanced courses like the CPD course described above later during their college experience.  The course description is as follows:

Traditionally, design has been used to connote the process by which the physical artifacts of the objects and communications around us come into being. But over the last decade, design has come more and more to describe not only the development of objects but the process by which one shapes the interactions and experiences of people with the systems, services and organizations around us. A deeply human approach to problem solving, design thinking highlights one’s ability to intuitive This course will follow a series of overlapping modules that will introduce the student to the various iterative steps employed in the design thinking process and becoming familiar with the tools and methodologies employed. The course will feature a hybrid seminar format with lectures and case studies followed by hands-on exercises and practical applications of the theories in the form of team projects. At the conclusion of the course, students should be able to articulate the tenants of the design thinking process and apply those methodologies to problems of a variety of disciplines from science and engineering to business and the liberal arts.

On Wednesday I spoke to two segments of the “Innovation and Design” course taught by Wendy Angst in the Mendoza College of Business that together totaled about 65 students.  Joined by two Notre Dame executives, Rob Kelly and Mike Seamon, I helped to introduce three different Design Thinking challenges around campus parking, campus traffic and event ticketing.  After I explained SAP’s ongoing interest in innovation and Design Thinking in particular, the Notre Dame leaders explained the specific challenges.  We will visit the course together for a mid-point check and final reviews later in the semester.  The class description in the Notre Dame course catalog is as follows:

Innovation is about creating new ideas that have a positive impact. It requires thinking differently about the world around us. We’ll discuss the key principles and the innovation processes that lead to breakthroughs and the practices that make them work. We’ll learn about design and design thinking in ways that can be used to solve big problems in a human centered way.

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