Design thinking has not been a traditional part of business school curriculum in the past, but with many company executives using this type of thinking to solve tough business challenges, a group of MBA students decided to learn more about it by visiting with experts in the design field. 

Insight hosted 20 students from the Kellogg Design Club from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. The club’s mission is to educate and inspire Kellogg students to apply design-thinking to business challenges in order to develop creative new solutions. The visit was part of an organized trek to design firms in the Chicago area.

Insight’s Steve McPhilliamy, Ed Geiselhart and Meredith Wilson discussed the company’s interpretation of design thinking, which is solving complex problems with a rigorous and manageable approach. “The product development process is a big space,” said Geiselhart. “It is very important to have a clear plan when undertaking a project. While every project is different, adopting a manageable approach can help solve these complex problems and help come up with the right opportunities for business growth.”

Walking the students through case studies, the presenters were peppered with questions throughout, including “When clients come to you, what exactly are they asking you to do?”

The answer is what design thinking is. “Some clients know their market and need help finding a product to serve it; others have the product or technology and are not sure how to market it. That is where we come in with our approach to solving a problem,” said Wilson.

The presentation concluded with an example of what happens when stakeholder needs are not properly understood – the further along in the development process you are, the more expensive the mistakes are.

“I was particularly struck by the case study where Insight decided that a device wasn’t commercially feasible and recommended termination of the project – even though this eliminated a guaranteed revenue stream,” said Bruce Jang, a student from the Kellogg Design Club. “To me, that decision epitomized the strong values and culture that my colleagues and I felt from Insight during our visit.”