George Kembel visited UVA on November 5th and held a day-long series of talks and workshops with UVA faculty and students that were designed to get them to think about design and design thinking in an innovative, 21st century way.
George is, among other things, the founder of the Stanford d.school. The d.school works with students from various disciplines within Stanford to teach and enhance their design, design thinking and ideation skills. George specifically designed the d.school curriculum around the design thinking process, drawing on ideas and methods from different disciplines, ranging from engineering to business.
In his evening talk that was open to students, George spoke about how important team-formation and diversity is to progress in any given group. From his decades of experience working with teams and individuals, he has seen that homogeneous teams are significantly less likely to solve problems creatively than other kinds of teams. On the flipside, truly interdisciplinary teams—ones with members from diverse backgrounds and experiences—have been known to think outside the box and are not afraid to be wrong.
George is an advocate of the “design thinking process”. He cites many examples where teams followed the cycle and were able to break paradigms and innovate in industries where change was deemed impossible. One notable example from the d.school is Jane Chen. Jane and her team worked in a village in Nepal and transformed the way incubators are built and distributed in low-income villages in developing countries.
Here at UVA, the Arts Administration (ARAD) program has created opportunities for students to pursue work that is similar to what the d.school offers. ARAD majors utilize the Interdisciplinary Major Program to combine multiple disciplines ranging from the arts, entertainment, and business into a single major. The ARAD program is housed in UVA’s School of Architecture and is open to a small amount of students each year. As part of the ARAD program, George Sampson teaches a course Design Thinking that is open to undergraduate students from different schools. In the course, students explore the design thinking process and various aspects of the field through hands-on projects.
The Design Thinking class, listed in the course catalogue as SARC 5500 and ARAD 5500, meets at frequently meets at OpenGrounds and utilizes the space for group thinking and ideation. Most recently, the group used the OpenGrounds space to brainstorm ways to convert sketches into physical objects through 3D printing and animation. Throughout the process, teams of 3-4 people learned to sketch and rapidly prototype their ideas in order to present them to the rest of the class the following week. This simple project was a foray into the “process” that George Kemble spoke about at UVA, and its success is a testament to the potential of interdisciplinary teams working together on solving real problems.