Design Thinking – a methodology used to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions – is a relatively new idea in academia, but it’s a practice that Diane Scott, assistant professor of arts management, is well familiar with. Last month, she traveled to Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, to speak to professors from across the United States and Europe on the topic, at the 36th Annual Association of Arts Administration Educators Conference.
According to Scott, this methodology – which MCLA is incorporating throughout our students’ curricular experiences – is changing the way arts administrators in the field approach program development, marketing, organizational strategy and community engagement.
Her session, “Designing Design Thinking into Arts Administration Courses,” was attended by professors of arts management and arts administration. Scott presented a brief overview of the design thinking approach; strategies for how to incorporate the design thinking methodology into arts management curriculum; the benefits of incorporation and the potential pitfalls to avoid.
“I discussed two basic methodologies for incorporation—single exercises and full-course immersion. In many of my lower-level courses I incorporate Design Thinking exercises such as ecosystem stakeholder maps, journey maps, and empathetic interviews,” Scott said. “In upper level courses I have used the Design Thinking process as the frame for the entire course, systematically working through each of the steps to solve a community-based problem.”
Although Design Thinking has been actively utilized in the corporate world and in social entrepreneurship circles for about a decade, its move to academia beyond a few specialized programs, such as those at Stanford and MIT, is not as widespread, Scott said.
“In the presentation, I discussed the concept of Design Thinking and specifically how I’ve applied it in my arts management courses at MCLA,” Scott said. “The Design Thinking process lends itself particularly well to many aspects of arts management education, including marketing, community engagement, artist entrepreneurship and cultural ecosystem studies.
“Design Thinking processes incorporated into the pedagogy provide many benefits,” she continued. “The student outcomes from the courses where I have integrated Design Thinking processes have been extremely good. … [S]tudents possess a higher level of engagement, make meaningful connections with peers in the course, and make connections to the community.”
Scott explained, “The Design Thinking process flips the classroom. Students are responsible for much of the standard knowledge acquisition – things you’d typically cover in lecture – outside of the classroom. They spend their in-class time actively working in groups to solve problems facing the field and/or our community.”
Speaking at international conferences, said Scott, not only provides her with ideas and stories to share with her students, and opportunities to see how arts and culture are approached in different societies, “It helps us connect with persons from around the country and the world to share research and pedagogy in the arts management discipline. There is a strong international component to arts management education. This gave me the opportunity to make connections with others from across Western Europe.”
Scott will use those connections when she travels with students to Paris, France, next spring, as part of her travel course, “Paris and Comparative Cultural Policy.” As part of this course, students will explore the current U.S. structure for arts and culture support and compare the structure utilized by France. The trip includes a seven-day exploration of the major arts and cultural sites of Paris, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, Versailles, Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower.