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Unit information: Design and Systems Thinking for Innovation in 2020/21

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Unit name Design and Systems Thinking for Innovation
Unit code INOV10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Parker
Open unit status Not open




School/department Centre for Innovation
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

To innovate you need new ways of looking at problems to find novel and creative solutions that may have been missed from a purely analytical problem solving approach. This unit looks at the interconnectedness of various factors to understand the bigger picture (systems thinking) of the problem whilst bringing together a human-centred problem solving focus (design thinking) to create innovative solutions to design challenges. Design and Systems thinking strategies provide deeper insights about the users and the systems involved in a problem, to define and reframe the problem(s) and generate solutions or alternative approaches than those that already exist. In this unit you will learn to structure your natural creativity by applying these strategies to come up with innovative solutions to all kinds of problems for the course themes.

The unit aims to:

  • develop knowledge and understanding of the theory of design and systems thinking and how it can help to drive creative innovation.
  • develop the ability to put into practice critical design and systems thinking skills.
  • teach basic skills in ideation, brain storming, and a variety of different visual literacy and articulacy techniques to explain design decisions – including sketching and rapid prototyping.
  • develop the ability to describe, evaluate, analyse and critique innovation case studies.
  • develop the ability to reflect on a series of innovation challenges by applying design thinking and/or systems thinking theory and practices.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students successfully completing the unit will be able to:

  1. Summarise the theory of design and systems thinking and explain how it can drive creative innovation.
  2. Apply design and systems thinking strategies to a series of innovation challenges to create new alternatives, solutions and ideas.
  3. Employ ideation and brainstorming techniques, and use visual literacy and articulacy to explain design choices through sketches and rapid prototyping.
  4. Analyse, evaluate and reflect on design and systems thinking case studies.
  5. Reflect critically on their own design and systems thinking practice.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures and practical activities supported by collaborative and self-directed learning.

Students will be advised to set up their own spaces online for group collaboration.

Assessment Information

This unit takes the view that innovative problem solving through the use of design and systems thinking can be learned through repeated practice. Students will undertake 100% coursework through a series of short innovation challenges where they will put into practice what they have learnt in the lectures and workshops.

  • Group Practice - Applied Design and Systems Thinking 60%

Presentations in groups of the innovative design solutions for each of the challenges, including sketches and rapid prototypes to communicate designs: ILO 1, 2 & 3

  • Individual Reflective Critique 40%

A single overall individual reflective 3000 word critique on the use of design and systems thinking strategies for innovation for all the challenges, including references to the case studies covered: ILO 1, 2, 4 & 5

Reading and References

  • Systems Thinking: Coping with 21st Century Problems (Industrial Innovation Series), John Boardman and Brian Sauser ISBN: 978-1420054910, 2008
  • Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, Tim Brown, ISBN: 978-0061766084, 2009
  • Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work, Nigel Cross, ISBN: 978-1847886361, 2011
  • Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School, Idris Mootee, ISBN: 978-1118620120, 2013
  • The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, Dan Roam, ISBN: 978-1591842699, 2013