ImageHappy Friday! Today instead of hearing from an individual innovator, we’re looking at a school focused on creating innovators: Stanford’s Institute of Design (or  The has been referred to as a school for world changers and has produced several companies, including d.light design, which makes solar-powered lanterns for the developing world.

The school’s self-stated point of view is:

The is a hub for innovators at Stanford. Students and faculty in engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, sciences, and education find their way here to take on the world’s messy problems together. Human values are at the heart of our collaborative approach. We focus on creating spectacularly transformative learning experiences. Along the way, our students develop a process for producing creative solutions to even the most complex challenges they tackle. This is the core of what we do.

In a time when there is hunger for innovation everywhere, we think our primary responsibility is to help prepare a generation of students to rise with the challenges of our times.

How do they do it?  

First the school is founded on the assumption that everyone has the capacity to innovate and through learning experiences, schools can foster that creative capacity.

As founder David Kelley explained to the Wall Street Journal that “the best way to unleash creativity is to give students an ‘experience,’ or in speak, a design challenge. Under his teaching model, however, students aren’t just handed a problem to solve—they must define the problem themselves through research and direct observation.”

These problems aren’t fabricated scenarios either – they are real world, need-solving problems.  Through their projects students have developed solutions such as low-cost infant warmer to decrease the number of newborn deaths, solar devices for the poor in rural India and Africa, and irrigation systems for small-plot farmers.

To solve these problems,  students use thinking from all the disciplines and draw on an understanding of business, technology and human values to develop their solutions.  The school believes in iterative approach and students are encouraged to go through the design cycle many times to gain new insights and stronger solutions.

In addition, the school believes in “radical collaboration.”  Students work in teams, but it’s more than that.  Instead of dividing the pieces of the project between different team-members,  students “navigate each step in the innovation process together, leveraging their differences as a kind of creative engine.”

Pretty amazing right?  So how can you use the principles in your teaching?  Check out the Design Thinking for Educators for classroom tools and great ideas from other educators.  Then tell us what you did to create innovators!

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