‘Design thinking’ sparks innovation

Ann Yoachim
A Tulane alumna, Ann Yoachim works within the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program at Tulane, teaching students to use “design thinking” to tackle complex problems. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Design thinking — think of it as a new spin on innovative problem solving.

“There is real power in the practice of trying to find innovation within established systems,” said Ann Yoachim, the visiting professor of practice who is bringing that power to campus with new ideas and initiatives for the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program.

Yoachim’s work at Tulane University spans multiple departments and programs — she is on the School of Architecture faculty and holds a Master of Public Health from Tulane — but one focal point is the introduction of “design thinking” into various classrooms.

Design thinking can be difficult to define, she admitted, but Yoachim sees it as “a way of thinking that is focused on solutions and emphasizes creativity and collaboration to solve complex problems.” The process of design thinking, she said, is iterative and non-linear. Students are encouraged to listen, “prototype” ideas, redefine problems and create new solutions.

Yoachim stresses the importance of empathy in the design-thinking process. Central to the process and human-centered design is understanding people’s needs through research methods such as interviewing, observation and journey-mapping.

Along with other SISE faculty, Yoachim has conducted several design-thinking workshops in classes such as biomedical engineering. She also plans to teach an interdisciplinary course on collaborative approaches to problem solving in the spring, in which students will delve deeper into design thinking.

She also is interested in how design thinking can support team building and program development within the university.

“We want to see how this approach might work in different areas on campus,” she said.

Her interest in design thinking stems from her work at “the intersections of people, environment and health” in locations across the world, and she hopes to help Tulane students and faculty find similar connections through their own engagement in design thinking.

Originally posted by The New Wave. Written by Hannah Dean, a sophomore majoring in Latin American studies and political science at Tulane University.