Design Thinking in Higher Education, Part One: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation

Design thinking is a creative, collaborative, and innovative approach to solving problems and improving services by emphasizing human experience over product and profit (Brown, 2019). It can improve higher education by providing a framework that leaders—from department chairs to provosts—can use to address problems; search for solutions; test and refine ideas; support continuous improvement; and launch new programs, processes, and policies. We know this because in fall 2021 the members of our college-level administrative team challenged one another to use the framework for collaborative professional development. This article, the first in a two-part series, describes the context and background where we first applied the framework before defining and explaining the concept of design thinking for higher education settings.

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