This week we meet the Founder and Dean of the Design Thinking-informed IDEO U, Suzanne Gibbs Howard. Reflecting on a tough year for humanity, Suzanne says that her own constant self-questioning of her purpose and what she’s trying to do for the IDEO global online community of 200,000 graduates has been decisive. IDEO is another one of the growing band of organizations we’ve met during the season who say they are formally purpose-driven companies, with the team all focused on making change in the world in a more human-centered, design-thinking inspired way.
The central role of design thinking
IDEO defines this as “a human-centered approach to innovation” that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.
How IDEO interprets purpose
For IDEO, purpose is central to help align people toward what’s next for them, which is why her organization decided to offer a course called Power of Purpose well before the corona crisis. “We do teach a lot about purpose, and one of the things that we focus on is the way that purpose has a role in a larger system of change,” she tells RedThread and Learning Is The New Working’s Chris Pirie.
Expanding on that theme, Suzanne shows that if IDEO’s wider purpose is to amplify and unlock the potential of people so that they can solve their own challenges more creatively, IDEO U’s purpose is thus intimately connected to the larger IDEO organization’s purpose.
Purpose and learning
Suzanne issues something of a warning about the future of L&D: stop worrying about delivery formats, she urges, and instead look at what really motivates and engages people, which is them getting a chance to define their own purpose. “I do believe that this pandemic is that kind of opportunity, especially in the space of learning and the ways we work,” she suggests. “I think the next wave is going to be about those subtle dynamics of how we work together—making sure that all voices aren’t only heard, but truly integrated.”
This means that learning has to be about more than MOOCs and recorded talking heads. What’s needed are ways to deeply engage people, as engagement is the precursor to learning, Suzanne argues. For IDEO that engagement comes through community, which is integrated into IDEO U’s cohort-based offerings and offers change-makers across the world the opportunity to connect with peers and share and provide feedback on each other’s work.
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