Darden School Adds New Design Thinking Resources for Business Managers and Educators

October 07, 2013

This fall, the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is offering a range of new resources to empower educators, managers and others to integrate design thinking into business and educational settings. These resources – including two books, a webinar series and a free online course on Coursera – outline the strategies and processes needed to apply design thinking to solve the toughest business and innovation challenges.

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach in which managers apply the mindset and approaches of designers to develop innovative products, processes and business models to fuel growth and innovation and differentiate companies in crowded markets.

Darden professor Jeanne Liedtka, a leader in the field of design thinking, works with both MBA students and executives to explore how organizations can engage employees at every level in thinking creatively about solving problems and pursuing opportunities by using the tools of design. These tools guide managers through the process of empathizing with customers, exploring many novel ideas, quickly prototyping compelling solutions and testing those prototypes in the market. Liedtka recently received the honorary Medal of the Order of Australia for her role in developing leaders in the museum profession.

“We hear a lot of talk about innovation as a key strategic capability in business today,” Liedtka said. “What is often missing are the kinds of processes and tools that managers need to turn talk into reality. That is exactly what design thinking can bring – a clear and teachable set of tools and processes that designers have used for decades, but business people have no idea even exist. Design literacy will be an indispensable part of every manager’s toolkit. At Darden we intend to lead that effort, not follow it.”

Books on Design Thinking

Design-oriented firms, including Apple and IDEO, have demonstrated how design thinking can improve business results. Liedtka’s book, “Solving Problems With Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works,” written with Kevin Bennett and Darden senior researcher Andrew King, shares 10 vignettes about managers who applied design methods to creatively solve pressing issues – drawing on examples of leading businesses and organizations, including 3M, Toyota, IBM, Intuit and SAP.

The “Designing for Growth Field Book by Liedtka, Tim Ogilvie and Rachel Brozenske, a Darden visiting executive lecturer, a companion to Liedtka and Ogilvie’s “Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers,” provides a step-by-step framework for applying a design thinking methodology to a particular project. The field book will be available in December and is intended to be a resource for educators and others new to teaching design thinking. Preview copies are available on Net Galley and selected templates from the book will be available at Design@Darden. (Liedtka developed Design@Darden with the support of Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.)


Liedtka will host a series of webinars over the next 12 months to highlight the use of design thinking to solve major challenges faced by organizations, including multinational corporations, startups and government and nonprofit entities. Liedtka will focus the case-based discussions on the challenges, resolutions and lessons learned by each organization. Additional webinar details will be announced separately and will be posted at www.designatdarden.org.

Coursera MOOC

In the free massive open online course “Design Thinking for Business Innovation,” set to begin Nov. 4, Liedtka will navigate participants through a design-thinking approach to solving traditional problems, such as accelerating pressures for growth and innovation. She will host in-person sessions in Charlottesville as a complement to her course, and will encourage participants to do the same in their local city centers. Visit Coursera to register or learn more.

Media Contact

Matt Charles

University Deputy Spokesperson Office of University Communications