Education Executive Education Leadership

5 Design Thinking Executive Education Courses That Will Improve Your Leadership4 min read

March 11, 2020 3 min read


5 Design Thinking Executive Education Courses That Will Improve Your Leadership4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

To those unfamiliar with design thinking, the increasingly popular term might be a tad misleading. “Design” in the business sense often conjures up the role of a web or graphic designer – a purely creative role with minimal overlap with C-level executive functions.

In actuality, the purpose of design thinking is to blend the creativity of design with executive-level strategic thinking. Although it is inspired by designers’ sensibilities, it can be adopted by anyone in an organization – from CEOs, to engineers, to customer service representatives.

But what exactly is design thinking? And what is its purpose for executives? Design thinking is both an ideology and a process; it places users and customers at the heart of all decision-making, and seeks to understand the reasons why people behave the way they do. The insights gained from these behaviors are used to guide strategic thinking and decision-making – often resulting in major strides forward in practical innovation.

The design thinking process has five phases:

  • Empathize – Researching user or customer needs.
  • Define – Stating and summarizing user needs in a clear manner.
  • Ideate – Challenging assumptions and creating concrete ideas based on the findings. 
  • Prototype – Building research-driven solutions.
  • Test – Putting solutions into action, learning from the results and starting the process again.

The result of the whole design thinking process should be a human-centric strategy or product feature that drives real results in an organization. Because the result is continually tested, the design thinking process is never really over – hence why it is also an ideology to be adopted from the top down.

Learning design thinking in an executive program

Now that you’re familiar with how design thinking can help you in an executive role, let’s take a look at five of the world’s best design thinking executive education programs that are open for enrollment right now. By enrolling in a design thinking program, you are choosing to transform and improve the way you make decisions and lead your teams. 

Design Thinking and Innovation Week (Future London Academy); London

Looking for an educational experience that incorporates both practical education and real-world city experiences? Look no further than this unique five-day program from Future London Academy. Sometimes branded as a “design safari”, the experience includes morning and afternoon educational sessions complete with guest speakers and expert lecturers – plus workshops, office visits around London, city “debriefing sessions” and a final party. Learn from the best while absorbing the pulse of one of the world’s most vibrant cities. 

Design Thinking and Organizational Implementation (ESMT); Berlin

Even companies in the most traditional sectors are adopting new business models that put the customer journey front and center. A short intensive course in design thinking, such as the one from ESMT in Berlin, combines solutions for both innovation and implementation within large organizations. Over the course of three days, you will dive into hands-on user research, testing and implementation strategies. Moreover, you will have plenty of opportunities for networking during dedicated evening events. 

Creative Problem Solving: Implementing Design Thinking (IESE Business School); Barcelona

Taking place in what is often considered the “European capital of design”, this four-day deep-dive course will teach you a fresh approach to problem solving and help you discover opportunities for team/organizational growth. The program puts special emphasis on the power of detecting latent customer needs, ideating potential solutions and validating a new application. The program is specially designed for managers responsible for business development, talent, customer service or innovation initiatives.  

Business Program for Design Leaders (Future London Academy); London

Are you a creative professional who is looking to get into C-level management? This practical program from Future London Academy is aimed at participants with titles including Creative Director, Head of UX, Product Director, Founder, etc. The nine-week immersive program utilizes group challenges, case studies and facilitated discussions to equip talented creative professionals with the tools necessary to move into upper management roles (and help them highlight their unique strengths in order to do so). You will also have the chance to interact with partnering companies who are interested in hiring graduates of the program. 

Design Thinking for Business Innovation (Aalto University School of Business); Helsinki and Barcelona

“Come with a problem, leave with a solution.” This practical program jointly hosted by Aalto University in Helsinki and Esade Business School in Barcelona comes with an offer that’s tough to refuse. A seven-day journey into practical methodologies for design thinking, the program immerses participants into strategic thinking and encourages them to bring in and solve a challenge from their own organizations. The bottom line? This course will help you quickly solve an immediate and existing challenge, while equipping you with all the analytical and creative tools that are so characteristic of design thinking.

Design thinking: A valuable tool for executives

Most executives could stand to free themselves from the more traditional or rigid habits they hold onto. Design thinking is the ideal methodology to help management teams implement innovative changes in decision-making, plus build practical solutions. By putting human behavior at the center of strategy, executives ensure they are guiding their business in the right direction.


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