We had a question come in some time ago that unfortunately wasn’t a high priority for us because it’s not a universal interest among all BSers and doesn’t affect the app process – which is where we’re trying to focus our limited time and energies in these blahg posts right now. Here’s what we were asked:
I purchased blahg access recently and was looking for some info on design thinking/consulting. Companies like IDEO do recruit from bschools. My request for you is that if you can write a post on design thinking and how it is different from usual consulting?
For starters, the blahg is about applying to bschool and sure, defining your career goals and why you want an MBA are a very big part of that, but we haven’t spent much time here talking about careers. There are gobs and a gazillion sites and resources for that, and once you get into bschool, you’ll be inundated with all sorts of help from the school. So it doesn’t make too much sense for us to be spending time on questions like What is this career about? when you can find that on the open internet. Figuring out your goals and deciding what you want to do with your life is kinda beyond scope for what we’re about.
To the extent that a goal matters in how you pitch things to an MBA admissions committee then absolutely, yes, we do spend time on that. We even wrote a whole book on it! At least, as far as entrepreneurial MBA goals go.
You’ll notice though the massive-mouthful of a title for that book:
Can you see how we’re trying to position it?
When we talk about goals, then we are talking about them as the beginning of your research process. Hopefully that’s been made clear from the very title of that guide!
So when we get the question from this BSer about design thinking and consulting, while we certainly do know something about it, it’s also a) pretty niche, where not that many BSers are going to be focused on this subject, and b) something that you’re likely going to learn a helluva lot more about by talking directly to students and alumni and people in your professional network who are working in this space. EssaySnark isn’t really the right resource for you to be asking to tell you about “design thinking and how it is different from usual consulting” – we’re more downstream than that. We have toyed with the idea of doing more to present information on various post-MBA careers here on the site but that’s not our focus. The best way for you to learn about design thinking is to talk to people who are in that space. That’s not EssaySnark. We know about it from a high level, sure, and the jobs available and what you might do with such a specialization at school. But if you’re trying to learn about the variety of jobs available and which ones are right for you, well, we’re not in a position to do that.
It’s not because we can’t suggest jobs or that we don’t know; it’s just that it feels a little too much like spoonfeeding. We’re not saying that that’s what this BSer was asking for, but it’s just one of the ways that we make sure that the individuals we’re working with are putting in the appropriate effort themselves. A huge part of learning is in discovering things on your own – and when it comes to the career goals, then that’s even the most fun part of it!
We can say that, sure, expressing an interest in design thinking may be very valid as part of your MBA apps. We can also say that there aren’t a whole lot of jobs coming out of most MBA programs as “design thinkers.” (Not that this BSer said that – they asked about consulting – but the whole “design thinking” dealio is not a core MBA path, at least not at the moment.)
We will say that just recently, Darden has been one of the schools making design thinking a focus with their new IDEA curriculum (not to be confused with IDEO which is a company with roots at Stanford).
Design thinking is also integral in the HBS FIELD curriculum. Here’s the HBS i-lab course and here’s a 2014 Forbes article about FIELD (note that FIELD has changed from what’s described in that article).
And of course Stanford has their d.school and design thinking is kinda a big deal there.
So what is design thinking?
The tl;dr is: Start with the customer, work backwards. Figure out their problems from their perspective when determining what type of product or solution to build.
Here’s what HBS says from that course description linked above:
“The term emerged at Stanford in the 1980s, as a way to characterize the broad approach that those trained formally in design generally architecture, industrial design, and applied arts take toward problem solving. The approach is human-centered, focusing intensely on users, their needs, and their motivations. Through close observation of people in their environments (“Look”), direct engagement with them through interviews and shadowing (“Ask”), and even attempts to experience the world as they do (“Try”), researchers can gain deep understanding of users’ motivations and needs and, using this knowledge, produce solutions crafted to address those needs directly. Given its roots in the world of design, the approach also embraces visual thinking (including sketching, diagramming, and making) as legitimate and useful ways to develop understanding and communicate findings and ideas.
“Design thinking is most commonly associated with product design, but it can as aptly be applied to solve problems in processes, business models, management, and strategy. While fewer students outside of schools of design may have spent much time developing these skills, basic facility and familiarity is certainly within reach for anyone. The user-centric orientation of the approach, as well as these “designer-ly” skills, should be regarded as just additional “ways of knowing/understanding,” which can complement the analytical and written communication skills that are generally far more developed in students of business, medicine, government, education etc.”
Here’s the wikipedia page on Design Thinking .
(The point of this post kinda is, you can easily find this stuff on your own. Right?)
Is design thinking part of consulting?
Sure, it can be.
Is it part of product management?
Much more likely so.
Is it part of other things you’ll learn in bschool?
Maybe, though you could complete an entire MBA without ever focusing on it very much.
Design thinking is in the category of sexy and fun – and trendy, which has its own risks in how you present if you’re thinking about incorporating some of this into your MBA pitch.
That’s really the part that EssaySnark can help with. Once you have a sense of your goals, then come to us and we’ll help you present them with polish and verve.