For three days in April, more than a dozen first- and second-year Yale SOM students took part in Epic Thinking, a design lab run by the Rhode Island-based firm Epic Decade. The in-depth design lab helped students learn how to use design thinking to frame their opportunities, stories, and strategies. According to Charlie Cannon, chief design officer of Epic Decade, spending time asking the essential question is crucial for design thinking to work. “We think it’s important to spend time thinking about your vision and your impact before you even begin to think about how you’re going to get there,” he said. “What is the problem you’re actually addressing? What is the deeper root problem you’re trying to get at? What is the deeper root opportunity?”
Epic Decade came to Yale SOM through the work of Professor Rodrigo Canales and the Design & Innovation Club; this student-run club has become one of the most active on campus, reflecting the growing interest in design thinking at SOM. The event gave students the opportunity to turn the design lens on their own careers and aspirations—an appropriate focus with the end of the school year at hand and the students about to set out on summer internships or their first post-MBA jobs.
Although the methods of design thinking are new to most students, says Zach Phillips ’14, the concepts fit well with the Yale SOM approach to management education. “SOM is trying to bring together all these different perspectives and innovation is a part of that. Design in general is more of a way of thinking rather than one specific discipline,” he said. “What I hope to bring with me into my career is the ability to drill down to what the most important issue is. Then I can think about that much better because I understand the root of the problem.”