Design thinking at IBIS

Designthinking at IBIS

We proudly announce the launch of a new bachelor level education program at Inholland University of applied sciences in the Netherlands using design thinking as both a tool to design the education program and as part of the educational philosophy. AIaD was asked to be part of the development team and Jeroen becomes one of the lecturers of the program now named: International Business and Innovation Studies (IBIS). In December 2013 the plans were officially approved by the NVAO (Dutch authorities), which means we will start teaching in September 2014.

Sandra Reeb-Gruber, educational designer and one of the initiators behind IBIS talks about the vision of the education program and why ‘Design Thinking’ for her is a essential part of the education needed to educate tomorrows professionals:

“As design thinking is an important instrument for bringing about innovation and change in businesses, it is only logical that it would make up a substantial part of the curriculum of a study program about business innovation. Inholland’s new International Business Innovation Studies (IBIS) program aims to provide the business world with a new generation of international leaders and entrepreneurs who can transcend the attitudes of linear business models to embrace a social-ecological era of business. This requires a non-linear approach to issues and opportunities, ambidextrous thinking, and an understanding of human behavior and needs; things that happen to be the core of design thinking.

Design thinking permeates through the entire IBIS study program, starting with the meta-skills that constitute the end qualifications of the program: DEFINE, DESIGN, EXECUTE, LEARN, LEAD. The elements of the design thinking process —empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test— are clearly recognizable in the meta-skills DEFINE, DESIGN and LEARN. These comprise the ‘discovery’ part of the innovation process. Innovation also requires disciplined execution and implementation, however, hence the addition of EXECUTE and LEAD to the meta-skills, which represent the ‘delivery’ part of innovation.


The design thinking school of thought is also discernable in the educational philosophy of the IBIS program. One of the leading principles of the IBIS educational philosophy is that students develop higher order thinking skills; questioning, experimenting, observing, and associating —rather than answering and solving. Students are presented with real, complex, and ‘fuzzy’ (i.e. ‘wicked’) issues and new material, requiring cognitive flexibility, creative and critical thinking, experimentation and iteration, and learning by doing.

Of course, since students are trained to initiate, design and implement effective solutions and operations on an international scale, they also learn about and practice with design thinking in the IBIS program. Students first encounter different ways of thinking at the very start of the study program —in Theories of Thinking and Reasoning—, stretching their cognitive flexibility in preparation of the second term, where they get a deep dive experience in human centered innovation and design. As of the fourth term of the first year, students are expected to practice design thinking continuously in capitalizing on opportunities and solving issues, constantly integrating all five meta-skills in their activities.

Last but not least, the process of the IBIS curriculum development shows distinctive signs of design thinking. The process started with exploring and defining the 21st century business context and employer needs, resulting in a Professional Profile for the program, including the meta-skills. From there we designed a first draft of the curriculum blueprint —all the while tweaking the professional profile—, had interviews with ‘end-users’ (potential employers) and refined the blueprint based on their comments and specific needs. Combining the blueprint and the educational philosophy we defined, we developed the curriculum content, and tested it on potential students and their parents.

Without consciously meaning to, we have integrated design thinking in our own way of working and developing education; a definite enrichment that is here to stay!”

Authors: Sandra Reeb-Gruber & Jeroen

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2 responses to “Design thinking at IBIS

  1. Pingback: Design thinking at IBIS | Fred Zimny's Serve4impact·

  2. Can a curriculum design used 10 or more years ago be still applicable or used at present or in the future? If not, why?

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