“There is something we [designers] contribute: a high tolerance for uncertainty, ways to grapple with visual representations and understanding problem-solving as an open-ended, playful process,” says Lucy Kimbell, a fellow in design leadership at Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
Growing numbers of business schools from Stanford to Esade are incorporating design thinking into their business curriculum to encourage inter-disciplinary teamwork, abductive reasoning skills, creative problem-solving and a heightened awareness of the role that empathy plays in business.
As Fortune 500 companies increasingly view design as part of strategic business decisions, designers are being called on to improve services, operations, and supply chains, in addition to the traditional areas of product design and communications designs.
Abductive reasoning skills involve creative leaps of imagination and visualization—skills which complement the traditional business school focus on analytical and quantitative skills. For some schools, the goal of incorporating design thinking is, in part, to cultivate an empathetic view of the world so as to equip managers with tools to better relate to customers.
“Designers have empathy because they’re thinking about what will ultimately move their client. But managers don’t have that. They think: ‘I don’t have to take a phenomenon seriously until it becomes statistically significant,” says Professor Roger Martin, dean of Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. “By complementing the analytic with these generative skills, we bring the whole human being to the problems we face.”