Posted by: Alison Damast on March 19, 2010
Hammers, glue guns and cordless drills are not items you’d normally expect to find in a business school classroom. The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is hoping to change that with their new i.Lab, an innovation laboratory where students can learn design-thinking skills and hone their entrepreneurial ideas. The school officially opened the lab today, after more than three years of planning and $1 million worth of construction. The 4,000-square-foot space, which used to be a cafeteria space, will serve as the creative backbone of the school’s new “design-thinking” classes, a fairly new addition to the school’s curriculum, the school says.
The i.Lab will look radically different from most of Darden’s classrooms, which have a stadium-style seating arrangement. The new space has floor-to-ceiling-windows on one wall, a whiteboard that stretches for more than 30 feet and plentiful wall space for students to hang project drawing and prototypes of designs, according to a school news release. There are tall workbenches lined with items like Dremel carving tools and hammers, and shelves lined with everything from balsa wood to foam board and aluminum sheets.
Darden Professor Jeanne Liedtka, in the news release, says that the lab will help students become more open-minded about their approach to design.
“Schools have taught creativity for a long time. What’s new is the idea of systematically leveraging the tools from the design world to help Darden students be more creative, innovative thinkers,” says Liedtka, who helped develop the plans for the lab.
A number of courses in innovation and product development will be offered at the i.Lab, including one taught by Liedtka called “Corporation Innovation and Design Experience.” Another course, Bio-Innovation, will bring together students from Darden, the bioengineering program and the schools of medicine, architecture and nursing.
Darden is joining a small but growing number of business schools that are putting more of an emphasis on innovation and design. In the fall of 2008, New York University’s Stern School of Business opened up the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab and the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management is opening one, as well.
Readers, what do you think of Darden’s i.Lab? Should more business schools be going in this direction?