Learn Design Thinking, Facilitation, and Futurecasting Online, On Your Own Time

I recently returned from the CreativeLive studios in Seattle, where we produced three online classes on Design Thinking for innovation, facilitationfor Design Thinking, and Futurecasting.

The three classes are rebroadcasting for FREE on CreativeLive this week, and are also currently available for purchase to view on-demand or download. Check out the course descriptions below or on my CreativeLive profile.

1. Design Thinking for Business Innovation

 How To Use Design Thinking To Transform Your Business

You know that one of the top trends in business innovation these days is design thinking. Only problem is, you’re not quite sure what it is. You’ve heard it described in a bunch of different ways, and you’re starting to wonder if no one else understands it either.

But the truth is, design thinking is one of the most effective new methods and mindsets for framing and solving problems. Top businesses, organizations, consultancies, schools and governments are adopting it as a way to innovate their processes and service offerings, using human empathy, design principles, action-oriented solutions, imagination, intuition and systematic reasoning.

Learn more about Design Thinking for Business Innovation>>

2. Become a Design Thinking Facilitator

 Take Design Thinking To The Next Level By Leading Your Team

So you’ve done your homework and you now understand what design thinking is and the power it has to revolutionize the way you do business. But the only way it can really have an impact is if key players throughout your organization embrace design thinking principles and are willing to put them into practice.

Basically, you need to become a design thinking evangelist, coach and trainer. This course will instruct you on how to explain the method and mindset for creative problem framing and solving and show others how to implement this innovative process.

Learn more about Become a Design Thinking Facilitator>>

3. Futurecasting for Product Innovation

Ensure Your Organization’s Relevance And Sustainability

We live in a rapidly changing world, and that includes the world of business. To be successful, companies have to develop products and services that not only address the needs of today, but anticipate the needs of tomorrow. That’s why futurecasting is so important.

While no one can see the future, we can model and rehearse potential futures, which is what futurecasting is all about. This essential tool for design innovation and business strategy helps us imagine what the future might be so we can create a long-term vision and make it a reality.

Using techniques adapted from the military, global corporations and top design schools, this course will help you map out the best- and worst-case scenarios of the future and prepare for them.

Learn more about Futurecasting for Product Innovation>>

Innovation Dynamics: Quick-Start Guide + Online Course

Foossa’s recent design collaboration with GreenHouse is now available on Amazon. Shout out to SVA Design for Social Innovation grads Martha Berry and Anna Luiza Braga for the additional design support.

How does NASA get its mojo back? What do big cities do with selfish billionaires? What’s wrong with art education? How are inner city youth the answer to urban renewal? What does the military have to do with the arts?

Innovation Dynamics is the first systematic approach to real social innovation and solving people-problems. Purchase includes a beautifully-designed, printed quick-start guide and 90-days of online access to The Short Course on Innovation Dynamics at The Academy for Social Change. The online course includes brief, animated instructional videos and an interactive workbook that can be printed for collaboration in teams. Buyers receive one unique access code to the online course with each printed guide.

The quick-start guide and multimedia introduction were developed by founders of GreenHouse, Insight Labs and UX for Good and innovators in residence at the University of Southern California. It emerged from years of work in the U.S., Europe and Africa with organizations like the U.S. State Department, NASA, Harvard Medical School, Starbucks, the Dalai Lama Center and the TED Conferences.

Users will learn how to:

  • Break problems down into their most essential parts
  • Reconcile various stories behind problems
  • Uncover hidden relationships among problems
  • See invisible rules that guide relationships and social systems
  • Leverage expectations to solve problems
  • Engineer deviance to disrupt the invisible rules

Innovation Dynamics was developed in consultation with social scientists and is a core element of the first-ever doctorate in social innovation.

How Human Creativity Will Win The War Against Robots

May 11, 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of supercomputer Deep Blue’s victory over world champion chess player Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue’s victory was the first time a computer beat a human chess master in a standard match format.

Technology has advanced dramatically since 1997,  and so have anxieties about artificial intelligence and the possibility of automated bots taking over human jobs. Some estimate that by 2025, up to 40% of jobs could go to robots. If machines can do our jobs better, what does our future at work look like?

Workers in almost every field will be affected in some way by automation. Machines are better than humans at repetitive, brute force tasks, and can now even beat humans in well-defined games like chess and Go. They could replace workers in service industries and administrative positions, and even have some management capabilities. But for innovators who are tasked with problem solving and imagining the future, human curiosity and playfulness will always have the advantage.

Robots cannot kill human ingenuity

Take this recent scene at a Fortune 500 company where I worked. Senior level executives gathered on the floor of a cleared out conference room like preschoolers at recess. Recycled cardboard boxes, colorful shards of construction paper, gnarled pipe-cleaners, scented markers, and hot glue were peppered around the room. The participants huddled with their teammates around their prototypes and put the pieces in place, building thoughtfully as they work together.

In the non-profit and public sector,  design thinking—which often looks like structured, open-ended play—has become a popular vehicle for creative problem solving and innovation.

Major corporations like Procter & Gamble have used design thinking to create new product lines that have turned around struggling brands like Mr. Clean. Design thinking is no longer considered just a marketing tool. The United Nations has also used it to redesign informal sustainable development settlements, like remaking a football pitch in Kenya. Design thinking is now taught in places like the business school at Cornell, and it even has its own department at Stanford. It allows for real-time improvisation and engagement that makes things work.

In the real-life training session I described, an internal knowledge management software project was running late and over-budget. It was not clear if the work in progress really addressed the needs of the employees who would be using the tool.

The executives hit “pause” and “reset” on the project. They started from the beginning, using empathy as a tool. Through interviews and observations, they tried to understand their colleagues’ knowledge management needs. From there, they formulated a problem statement, reframing the original problem as needed.

A playful prototype for a new corporate knowledge management system

If you look beyond the low-fidelity arts and craft aesthetics, the methodology that we teach is not that different from the scientific method: understand, hypothesize, test, rinse, and repeat until we get it right. Our approach goes beyond problem-solving and also works to cultivate a creative culture through a designer’s mindset.

This mindset begins with empathy for the needs of our fellow humans. It is open to a diversity of viewpoints and professional disciplines. It withholds judgement when it is time to ideate, and relies on evidence to make decisions about what works. This requires skilled facilitators who have built intuition through experience. This intuition helps us determine when to foster open-ended play, and when to switch to a more analytical, critical mode of thinking.

While computer artificial intelligence can help us optimize systems and processes, and even replace humans in many job functions, machines cannot yet have that intuition, nor the ability to empathize, reframe problems and truly innovate.

Technological innovation is attempting to bridge this gap.  Last year, researchers reported that Google Translate had developed its own meta language to translate between languages it had not previously been trained to engage. In other words, in a vaguely frightening, sci-fi-like development, computers can now at-least partially program themselves, and their human masters don’t fully understand what is happening. But optimization is not the same as innovation. While Google Translate can make it easier to communicate in different languages, communicating beyond the language barrier is still distinctly human. Humans will always win on gestures, making mistakes, humor, and how that all feeds into human connection.

There may be a day when robots learn to brainstorm, play, and innovate, and therefore deliver an unfair advantage to human beings. But for now, humans corner the market on playful and divergent thinking—the kind that breaks through barriers and sparks new ideas.  The robots may be coming for our jobs, but it is too early to call checkmate on human ingenuity.

Lee-Sean Huang is a designer, educator, and futurist based in New York City. He is a co-founder of Foossa, a service design and storytelling consultancy and a participant of the Allies Reaching for Community Health Equity (ARCHE) Public Voices Fellowship with The OpEd Project. He also teaches design and futures thinking at the Parsons School of Design.

StoryForward NYC: Storytelling for Social Good

Video of Foossa co-founder David Colby Reed and myself at the StoryForward NYC Storytelling for Social Good panel in November with Ram Devineni, Andrea Phillips, and Dan Bigman.