By Casey Lesser
Courtesy of RISD EE.
In the past decade, creativity has increasingly become a highly coveted quality for employers hiring at the top levels.
Well aware of the wide-ranging applications of creativity, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) launched a continuing education program in 2016 aimed at today’s global leaders. At its core, the program—known as RISD Executive Education (RISD EE)—enlists designers, experts, and faculty of the Providence, Rhode Island, art and design school to teach industry leaders, entrepreneurs, government officials, and C-level executives the principles of design and creative education.
Workshops are built on methods that designers traditionally use when conceiving ideas, like Design Thinking, which incorporates experimentation and considerations of empathy in order to develop innovative solutions to problems.
“We saw an opportunity to engage professional audiences in the ways that design and creativity-based processes can help them think about how they approach their work, as well as learn new methods of working that might be more effective and productive,” says RISD EE associate director of executive education and professional studies Lizzi Ross.
One of two initiatives of focus is the Institute for Design and Public Policy (IDPP). Originally conceived in collaboration with the U.S. State Department, the program offers immersive, five-day workshops on the RISD campus for cohorts of 20 to 25 professionals. During these cooperative and collaborative experiences, participants are taught fundamentals of human-centered design and design processes, and then apply them to case studies of salient, contemporary public policy issues, like “The Democratization of Energy.” The workshops run through bespoke exercises that see participants work in small groups (armed with plenty of colorful Post-Its) to apply design principles like Network Mapping, Propositional Thinking, and Problem Framing to real-world problems. Participants are primed to feel comfortable with uncertainty and to experiment freely.
IDPP participants have included government officials from Rhode Island, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as leaders from Harvard University and the fashion brand Kate Spade. The diversity of fields is intentional, engineered in order to foster cross-sector brainstorming and collaboration. In the most recent IDPP workshop, titled “Designing Participatory Cultures: Civic and Government Futures,” leaders considered what it means to be civically engaged today, in fields like healthcare, education, and urban planning.
“These are complex challenges that many leaders across diverse sectors are facing and have to address,” Ross explains, “and so the intent of this is not necessarily to have these folks leave with packaged solutions, but rather to engage them in a different way of thinking about how they might approach that challenge.”
RISD EE’s more recent initiative, Design for Manufacturing Innovation (DfMI), is a certificate program developed with a local focus, in collaboration with economic organizations Commerce RI and the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association. The coursework was developed for leaders of manufacturing businesses in Rhode Island, particularly those that are engaged in defense manufacturing; it was initiated through a a U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment grant for defense manufacturing given to Commerce RI……………..
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