"Students are successful in my class when they become comfortable with innovating, creating and living in the world of ambiguity and uncertainty. When new ideas are proposed, they can say 'I can do this."
- B.S. in Business and Public Administration — University of Arizona
- MBA — Webster University
I published "The Intersection of Design and Business Schools: The Need for Design Thinking" article in the Academy of Management Learning & Education journal (2014, Vol. 13, No. 4, 653–667). This was a huge accomplishment that helped the business community understand why design thinking is so critical in business, entrepreneurship and strategy.
I have also presented papers and created design thinking tracks at multiple conferences, in locations such as Hong Kong, Istanbul, Boston and Finland. I see design thinking becoming a key discipline along with accounting, finance and marketing.
Tell us about your private sector experience.
I grew up in Boise and, after 25 years, came back. I worked in medical management running an office of 38 employees and $4–5 million in revenues. I also was a million–dollar producer in real estate at one time.
Diversity in industries helped me to not only relate to students but to see the need for innovation in the workplace. Today, some of the companies I have worked with on design thinking projects and consulting include Biomark, Blue Cross of Idaho, PakSense, Hewlett Packard, Wells Fargo, Zamzows, AmericanPharma and Sprint.
One great experience: Hewlett Packard brought in 16 VPs from around the world to implement 3D printing. The goal: How do we get from 198 ideas to the best features that are worth our time and money? What they found was that it was about the customer—and really, they needed two printers for two different types of customers—not one. The upfront research, development and creativity saved tons of money down the road by making sure they were focusing on real needs and producing a product that would really serve the market.
Which classes do you teach online?
BUSMBA 501 — Design Thinking and Strategic Management
First–class students take the online MBA program. To me, it's important to connect with online students so that they feel they are being seen—even though it is not a face–to–face class. I want to make sure they are engaged and have the same experience as on–campus students.
Discussion boards are so important—it's about content and thought—not just blogging or off–the–cuff comments. Students shy away at first—but when they find that they learn from other students, they are encouraged to contribute. It's really powerful.
What should students take away from your classes? What do they learn?
Students are successful in my class when they become comfortable with innovating, creating and living in the world of ambiguity and uncertainty. When new ideas are proposed, they can say "I can do this."
For students who crave black and white, right and wrong, design thinking is incredibly uncomfortable at first. The "Aha!" moment comes when they can understand that, in the world of business strategy and innovation, there is no right answer—just a better answer.
The combined use of readings, videos, discussion boards, simulations and team projects helps students tackle all of this in a very short, very robust eight weeks. Quickly, students learn the mantra of design thinking: "Fail early, fail often and get used to criticism."
What I love is when students come to me after the class and say that not only are they more innovative—they are also able to have deeper conversations with their bosses. They have the tools—and the confidence—to discuss strategy, innovation and product development on a higher level.
How did you get involved in design thinking?
One of my mentors, Roy Glenn, started the first design thinking course with Nancy Napier at Boise State. This became the catalyst for Design Thinking and Strategic Management. I started teaching a one–credit class which was full of great content and became so popular that we expanded.
Many students commented that the learnings were unexpected but ultimately the real reason why they were getting their degrees. It was exposing them to new approaches to problem solving. Venturing into this unknown gave them more confidence and eventual success in the business world.
Over the years, I have found that design thinking keeps you humble. You so often hear "I don't like this." In the business world, there's plenty of things you don't like. You have to succeed outside your comfort zone. True leaders know that they have to innovate and create new value. You can't get complacent. You can't rest on your one big product. Others will do it better, faster, cheaper.
Why is design thinking important?
First and foremost, companies are starting to focus on the customer. This is something that is common sense but, really, there's an art to focusing on jobs to be done and what people really want.
Traditional business models are about analytics, and financial models are about using past data. Design thinking is about the customer, the end user, and is more forward thinking. We encourage viewing, observing and experimenting with what the customer wants and needs in the future. There is so often an unmet need or gap that can't be found in the numbers and historical anecdotes. Using all tools together is much more powerful.
Why did you start teaching?
I love sharing design thinking with others—students, faculty, business professionals—everyone. I love when I see students who don't think they are creative come up with great products and services. The session starts with "I don't have a creative bone in my body," then quickly becomes "Look what we did." There are high–fives, enthusiasm and confidence. Everyone believes they have the best team, the best product—there is so much pride in their work.
I also love that I can help people see the value of diversity in working teams. Seeing that people with different ideas and backgrounds can add value makes everyone better. When you team a social worker, an engineer and an accountant together, it creates a very different conversation.
Finally, I love that I'm always surprised at what students come up with. It's a testament to the process that very rarely do students with the same parameters for an assignment come up with the exact same thing twice.
What advice would you give to those considering the Boise State online MBA program?
Take the first class (Design Thinking)—you'll love it. This is why you're getting an MBA. To learn new ways of innovating. This course is applicable to everyone, regardless of your profession. In order for businesses to survive and thrive, they must innovate. We provide the tools to help move forward.
What is the one book you think everyone should read?
"Blue Ocean Strategy," the first book in the program—you'll constantly go "Wow." It changes people's thought processes and is always relevant. I was at an airport in Amsterdam and struck up a conversation with a man who was reading the book. Turns out he was the CEO of a huge company and had just bought it for all 500 of his employees.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that your students may not know.
I have three kids and am an Idaho girl at heart who loves to snow ski, hike and fish (trout). I'm happy in any weather (wind, rain, cold, heat) as long as I'm outside.
I'm also interested in the arts and am on the Board of Directors for Ballet Idaho. In addition, I am the Corporate Secretary and Treasurer for the Idaho startup "American Farmer," recently named one of the top three startups in Idaho.
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