Design Thinking at the EMBA UZH

Design Thinking at the EMBA UZH

“In the design paradigm, context is everything. Our teaching and research at Stanford, plus sustained interactions with our partners and the rest of the world, have validated taking a human-centered approach and seeing user needs in context.” said Prof. Larry Leifer, one of the founders of Design Thinking. The University of Zurich’s Executive MBA last week embarked on the last module of the first EMBA in General Management with focus on Digital Transformation, a journey that began in October 2019.

The module “Design Thinking for Business Transformation” was developed by “Goodpatch”, a leading Design Agency from Berlin, led by Boris Jitsukata, together with Dr. Tamara Carleton from Stanford University. The module immersed the EMBA participants in live business challenges from 5 international startups – “Planted”, “Materra”, “ProjectTogether”, “Evenito” and “Aaron”. Boris Jitsukata said “Design Thinking has a crucial impact on the world. This is why we immediately left the “classroom” and brought the students together with startups to work on real sustainability challenges to directly experience the value of applying a Design Thinking mindset.”

Prof. Larry Leifer spoke to the EMBA participants about the origins of the method and the unique way it addresses the user experience, it was a humbling experience to meet one of the originators of Design Thinking.

During the module Dr. Tamara Carleton, PhD, Academic Lead of the EMBA module, introduced students to “Strategic Foresight”. She said, “Smart business leaders learn from all tools – and foresight finds opportunities of the future by expanding the opportunity space and helping teams understand the bigger context. In other words, Foresight finds and frames the opportunity, and Design Thinking then defines and solves the user need.” In interviews with stakeholders the participants explored the user needs and used these insights to create unique solutions to the challenges the start-ups gave them. On Wednesday the class had a virtual lunch session with Semir Chouaibi, Head of Design at German grocery giant EDEKA and exchanged views about the challenges the food retail sector faces and how to use Design Thinking to address them.

It was a stimulating learning experience and it marks the end of the taught modules in the first iteration of the Executive MBA UZH in General Management with focus on Digital Transformation. This was duly celebrated during a virtual apero with representatives from the EMBA UZH Alumni Organization. Andreas Heinzer, from the EMBA UZH Class of 2017-19 and a member of the Alumni Board welcomed and congratulated the students on their achievements and all raised a glass of Prosecco with each other. After having handed in the Master Thesis the week before, a great relief could be felt! The next highlight for the class of 2019-2021 will be the graduation at the end of June.


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