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New course tackles “wicked problems” with design approach

Undergraduate | Oct 18, 2016 |

shutterstock_388818547Change is great.


We should know — we experience it every day. New innovations, new technologies, new companies. But all of these great things can bring challenges, too. Ramifications for the environment, changes in people, shifts in culture.

Overcoming these challenges can benefit from “design thinking.”

What’s design thinking? It’s a specific mode of problem-solving that many experts believe is very well-suited to business—and it’s the topic of a new Gabelli School of Business course launched in fall 2016.


Taught by adjunct faculty member Martin Dominguez, the class introduces students to design thinking and encourages them to apply it to business-world issues. The goal is not to replace what students have learned in their other courses, but to augment it.

“It is just one more tool in your toolbox,” Dominguez said.

Unusual problems—in the lingo of design thinking, “wicked challenges”—might require unusual methods to find a solution. Design thinking is great for issues that are hard to define, that have several competing solutions, or whose solutions themselves generate even more problems—for example, the degeneration of our environment.

Dominguez’s class chooses a large-scale problem to tackle; he then guides the whole class through a design-thinking approach to it. Dominguez described design thinking as more of a language than a step-by-step process: applicable to any major or any topic, to any size organization, and to business or personal issues. 


While Dominguez is a designer by nature, having worked in many fields, including graphic design, sculpture and mixed media arts, he said a common misconception about design thinking is that it’s all about design and production. That often comes into play, but not until the very end of the broader, more complex endeavor.

Dominguez said he is interested “in people who want to do things better, who want to make the world a better place.” It sounds like he will find exactly that kind of person in his Gabelli School undergraduates.

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