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Integrative Leadership Meets Design Thinking, A Student's Perspective

By Stefanie Hafermann, PhD Candidate, UMN School of Nursing

CIL's Friday Leadership Research Forum this week will feature an exploration underway by Virajita Singh, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Design, on the connection between integrative leadership and design thinking. Turns out she isn't the only one recognizing the value of design thinking and creativity as key tools and processes for addressing grand challenges.

Without prompting, Stefanie Hafermann a candidate in the Health Innovation and Leadership Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of Minnesota and a member of the 2012 - 2013 Student Leadership Team provided the following timely reflection on the link she sees between these two:

With the future of health care changing at a rapid pace, it is important to have educated leaders who are able to identify and adapt to change in unique and effective ways. How can leaders unlock their ability to do this? One key could be in design thinking.

In his 2009 book Change by Design, Tim Brown states, "The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives" (p. 49). It is about challenging accepted beliefs and behaviors by pushing boundaries into the unknown. Brown persuasively argues, "By testing competing ideas against one another, there is an increased likelihood that the outcome will be bolder, more creatively disruptive, and more compelling" (p.67). Challenging expected ways of thinking requires an innovative leader - one able to inspire his or her team to expand their intellectual limits.

Like a platypus, integrative leadership is "an uncommon mix of different species" (Brown, 2009, p. 33). Creative and innovative leaders are found in all fields including health care, education, business, law, etc. It is when these leaders are willing to push field boundaries and mingle in uncommon ways that we see issues like those surrounding healthcare being addressed in truly "creatively disruptive" ways.

The future of this country will continuously improve as more leaders use design thinking to cross boundaries to create original solutions to local, state, federal, and global problems.

Registration is currently closed for this month's Friday Research Forum. If you were not able to register or make it to this one, we hope to see you at another one this year. Space is limited, so do register early.


Brown, T. (2009). Change by design. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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