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Is Cornell Starting a Design Institute?

Posted by: Reena Jana on May 26, 2009

Last month, I moderated a panel on socially responsible business innovation at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management. While at Cornell, I heard buzz about a possible “Cornell Design Institute” that would branch various schools at the university to offer design thinking courses for B-school students. Jeffrey Gangemi (a former BusinessWeek colleague, and Charles Lo, the panel’s organizers and two 2009 Cornell MBA graduates, just informed me that Cornell will expand its design courses at the Johnson School next year.

This past academic year (2008-09), Cornell offered a class called Creative Design for Affordability, taught by Professor Alan McAdams and championed by both Gangemi and Lo. Professor McAdams kindly gave me a copy of the reading packet to peruse, which included case studies from companies such as Kodak and IDEO, on how to iterate low-cost products for the world’s masses. Next year, the class will be offered in two forms: one a big-think course that tackles theories and ideas, and another that focuses on hands-on creation of products.

If this sounds like a B-school that’s taking a cue from Stanford’s D-school, well, you’re right. The D-school’s approach of bridging business and design curricula was definitely an inspiration. While two courses doesn’t really signify a full-on D-school-like initiative, it does illustrate growing student and faculty interest in cross-disciplinary, design-thinking classes for tomorrow’s managers. Cornell’s focus on design for the world’s poor might also give the budding program a way to distinguish itself among other B-schools also following Stanford’s lead.

Here's a link to the panel I moderated. Scroll down to "Innovations for the World's Biggest Challenges." It says "Coming Soon" but plays now. The speakers: serial entrepreneur Kevin McGovern (SoBe water; The Water Initiative); Elizabeth Johansen of IDEO's Social Impact Lab; Mike Lin of Vestal Design; and Chris Fong of Google).



What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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