It’s All in the ‘Design’ for Solving Business Problems Innovatively
When students come to Bowling Green State University to study business, they know they have unique opportunities that many other undergraduate business programs don’t offer; it’s not a “traditional” business education. BGSU is one of the few universities in the country to have as part of its undergraduate business curriculum an Applied Business Experience (BizX) lab program, a series of hands-on, experiential one-credit hour courses which begins the first year and then builds on the prior BizX courses through senior year. What we think of as traditional science lab activities are transferred to a business setting, allowing students to learn by doing and blend their creativity with visual, analytical skills to solve problems and differentiate companies from their competitors.
Besides having the business lab experience, BGSU business students learn the innovative, problem solving approach used today by such well-known companies as Proctor & Gamble, Reebok, IBM, Ford, and Apple, all of whom use “design thinking.” This approach is a human-centered design method that can be applied to anything in business that needs improvement – products, services, and processes.
In essence, the design thinking method takes a business team directly to the customer to observe them using a product or service and interviewing the customers to help the business team identify the customers’ wants and needs. Then the team collaborates using their observation and interview notes and empathetic reasoning to ideate a solution which is prototyped and taken back to the customer to test. The Design Thinking approach, made famous by the innovation global leader IDEO, is not a common element within most undergraduate business education which sets BGSU’s business program apart from others.
In today’s complex and ever-changing business world, it is important for graduating business students to be equipped with innovative problem-solving skills to help companies stay ahead of the competition. Bloomberg’s 2016 Job Skills Report states that recruiters value creative problem-solving and strategic thinking among the “sweet spots” of desired skills.
In BGSU’s BizX courses, students use the class time to work in teams. The freshmen business students spend most of their labs learning the first two steps in the design thinking process by observing and interviewing customers about a product or service and creating customer empathy maps and journey maps. The second-year BizX lab classes focus more on brainstorming innovations and rapid prototyping as a result of the first two steps, with the third-year course emphasizing business model design. The capstone BizX course works on innovating a business product/service using the knowledge and creativity fostered over the previous three courses.
Continued innovation in BGSU’s BizX course is the introduction of 3D printing being taught by Ruth White and Donna Greenwald, both faculty members in the marketing department. Business students as early as their freshman year are introduced to 3D printing through an assigned project.
BGSU students have access to 3D printers in BGSU’s Jerome Library Student Technology Assistance Center (STAC) and the two faculty members want to expose business students early on in their college education about the newest technology which will be affecting businesses operations in the future. 3D printing can especially be useful in creating prototypes for testing.
The BizX lab curriculum with its experiential, hands-on team approach and focus on design thinking problem-solving model demonstrates how BGSU’s College of Business is Going Beyond Business As Usual.