[EAS] Why We Need Labs in Education

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sun Nov 5 22:37:48 EST 2006

Two items that affirm the importance of the tangible in successful 
design. The peril of engineering education based only on theory and 
simulation is the limited scope of the assumed models and those who 
propose their sufficiency.  --PJK

See also

(from INNOVATION, 11 October 2006)

       A core principle at IDEO, one of the nation's most influential design
firms, is creating something tangible as a launching pad for further
exploration and innovation. "It's not talking about what may be," says CEO
Tim Brown. "It's actually creating and building it." IDEO -- a dream come
true for the concerned parents of liberal arts majors everywhere -- employs
anthropologists, cognitive psychologists, sociologists and other
right-brain thinkers, to create, improve, or reimagine all manner of
products, services, work spaces, and business systems. Rapidly prototyping
rough ideas helped IDEO work on a new Crest toothpaste tube. The
traditional screw-on cap always gets gunked up with toothpaste, so IDEO
first suggested a pop-on, pop-off cap. But when designers watched people
use their rough prototypes, they noticed that users kept trying to unscrew
the cap, even after they were told how it worked. Breaking that
well-ingrained habit would probably be impossible, so designers came up
with a hybrid: a twist-off cap that had a short thread but would still be
easy to clean. Brown says, "The great value of prototyping quickly and
inexpensively is that you learn about the idea and make it better." IDEO GM
Tom Kelley adds, "The answer often lies with humans. When we tried to
redesign a supply chain, we didn't watch trucks -- we watched the workers."
(US News & World Report 24 Sep 2006)

       To attract more users to its Firefox browser, Mozilla's business
development team turned to Stanford University. Not the business school,
but the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. A B-school class would have
focused on market size and used financial analysis to understand it. This
D-school class used "design thinking" instead. They began with consumers
and used ethnography, the latest management tool, to learn about them. The
power of this new approach to promote innovation and open up business
opportunities is attracting the attention of leading corporations. Design
has evolved from a narrow discipline dealing with the form and function of
products into a major new approach to developing business models. As
BusinessWeek recently put it, "If engineering, control and technology were
once the central tenets of business culture, then anthropology, creativity
and an obsession with consumers' unmet needs will inform the future." The
best design schools and programs are multidisciplinary. They combine
engineering, business, design, and social sciences. They team-teach using
groups of professors and outside professionals. And the students are
organized in groups to operate as teams. D-school grads often have both
extraordinary depth in a field and the breadth of knowledge to apply it.
Having all those parts embedded in one person's brain can put you over the
top in terms of the ability to innovate. (BusinessWeek 1 Oct 2006)

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