100 Ways To Pursue Design Thinking, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship at Michigan Ross
By Vanessa Lynskey, MBA ‘19
One of my primary goals coming into business school was to get hands-on experience applying design thinking and innovation strategies to solve problems.
For those unfamiliar with design thinking (or user-centered design), it’s a process for creative problem solving that keeps the end-user of a product or service front and center as problems are defined and solutions are considered.
What I love about design thinking and innovation strategies is that they force you to examine a question or problem from a different perspective, allowing you to see possibility and opportunity in ways you hadn’t before.
Let me demonstrate the applicability of these tools with an example from my time here at Ross.
As Co-President of Design+Business I saw natural alignment between our club’s focus on design thinking and innovation and the Zell Lurie Institute’s focus on entrepreneurship. Toward the end of my first year I approached ZLI about forming a partnership between our organizations, and for several months we went back and forth trying to determine what activity to pursue. While we identified many exciting ideas, no clear front runner emerged.
Sensing we were stuck, I proposed that we look at the situation through a different lens. What if we didn’t have to pick just one activity? What if the reason we were struggling to make a decision wasn’t because we didn’t have a single “great” idea but because we had so many good ideas? By stepping back and re-examining the problem, we realized we had been so focused on trying to come to a single solution that we had missed an even bigger opportunity right in front of us.
This shift in perspective sparked a flow of new ideas and within a few days we had drafted an outline for Ross’ first Innovation Week: a week of programming in September 2018 which promoted innovation, design thinking, and entrepreneurship in business. Thanks to the hard work of our Design+Business board members, and incredible support from ZLI and the MBA Program Office, the week was a great success.
100 Ways To Pursue Innovation
Check out my list of 100 ways to pursue design thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship at Michigan Ross. This list is just a start, and I’m excited to see what new opportunities will be added in the coming months and years.
One of my personal goals for the week was to help students identify the countless opportunities to explore creative problem solving at Ross and within U of M. Inspired by a post on More Than 100 Ways to Make a Social Impact at Michigan Ross, I set out to create a comparable list of design thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship resources.
At present, this list of 100 Ways to Pursue Design Thinking, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship at Michigan Ross is comprised of 35 clubs/activities/centers; 19 on-campus events/competitions; 4 graduate-level degree/certificate programs; and 42 classes, 19 of which are housed within Ross. This list is just a start, and I’m excited to see what new opportunities will be added in the coming months and years.
The opportunities to craft your own innovation/design thinking path at Ross are endless, and I’ve loved figuring out my path over the past two years. I hope these resources can help you find yours.
Tell us about your Ross MAP project
I completed my MAP project with Microsoft, supporting their work as leaders in the Cascadia Innovation Corridor. Our team assessed innovation ecosystems around the world and developed a framework and strategic plan to synthesize best practices from these examples, with a specific focus on understanding the role of universities in innovation ecosystems.
What are your plans after Ross?
I'll be heading to Seattle to be a Product Manager with Zillow. Over the long term, I'm pursuing a career at the intersection of technology, innovation, user-centered design, and social impact.
We're looking for new music, what's your jam right now?
Music's not really my jam, but if you're looking for a great read I highly recommend "Becoming" by Michelle Obama, "Creativity, Inc." by Ed Catmull, and "Designing Your Life" by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.