Exec MBA summer elective, summer 2012

This year’s version of the elective had the highest number of students take the MBA elective in Designing Better Futures – 29 taking the exec MBA and, 26 on the full-time MBA. I’ll provide a full write-up soon but in the meantime, here are some photos from the collaborative workshop in which the MBAs joined MDes Service Design Innovation students from London College of Communication on a 2 day project developing service experience and business models for the social venture Care 4 Care. 




This year’s MBA design electives at Said Business School

My MBA elective in Designing Better Futures (previously ‘Design Leadership’) will take place as a summer elective available to both executive and full-time MBA students at Said Business School between 1-14 July 2012. Once again this elective will give students opportunities to explore and assess the contributions that design-based approaches bring to contemporary challenges facing organisations and communities. Again, we’ll be collaborating with the MDes Service Design Innovation students from London College of Communication, directed by Alison Prendiville.

We are still working out the details of the joint project but it is likely to involve some prototyping and exploration of new service and business models, including working in the studio at LCC and a trip to other London design venues. In previous years in this elective students have worked on designing services to change travel behaviours, the product-service system for a new medical device, and supporting social enterprise Soul of Africa (see this blog for details)

In addition, this year I will be kicking off the new MBA elective in Design for Innovation and Change put on by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship based at Said. Led by Pamela Hartigan and Alex Nicholls, this new elective is running in Trinity term (ie for full-time MBAs only) in response to student demand for additional teaching in this area. I’ll be teaching the first of the eight classes on April 19, with an overview of design in the context of social innovation and change, and a rapid introduction to design thinking.

This course covers some similar ground to my elective. The major differences between the two electives are that my elective

  • offers opportunities to undertake design activities in collaboration with students from a design school
  • draws on a wide range of literatures that explore the value and nature of design-based approaches including organisation studies, science and technology studies and design studies
  • includes extensive hands-on practical exercise to expose students to methods and concepts used by leading contemporary designers
  • develops skills in design literacy.

Now in its seventh year, the Designing Better Futures elective is usually taken by up to 45 MBAs. Students say it is a unique opportunity to explore approaches from  professional design and relate them back to one’s own profession and context. If that’s not attractive….it’s also one of few formal classes at Said that is knowingly playful and creative.

MBA elective, summer 2011: Designing services for changed travel behaviours

Close up of student work during service design workshop

This year’s MBA elective in Designing Better Futures at Said Business School took place 17-21 July. This included a two-day intensive, hands-on collaborative workshop working on a contemporary challenge – reducing carbon impact by changing travel behaviours.

Following last year’s successful project involving students taking my elective and students from London College of Communication, this year we are again worked with students from that course, as well as an industry partner and a local authority to take part in some rapid idea generation and prototyping around services for more sustainable travel.

Over two days, students worked  in small teams to explore issues around reducing car usage and generate and visualize solutions for new services for the Oxfordshire town of Bicester in 2015 that might involve changed behaviours, new forms of data usage and new models for service systems.

Concepts we worked with included: behaviours and practices, shareable services and open data. Combining concepts and theories from management, design and innovation, the project was unusual in using a collaborative design-based approach to imagine future services. We repeatedly emphasized that the service concepts had to work across all four of these aspects of practice:

  • Material: artefacts, infrastructures, built environment
  • Symbolic: meanings, identities, norms
  • Affective: emotions, feelings, mood, atmosphere
  • Procedural: skills, know-how


Read the full details of the workshop are here.

Students taking part

– 34 MBAs from Said Business School: a mixture of EMBAs (part time executive MBAs) and students on the full-time MBA

– 19 students taking the MDes Innovation and Creativity at London College of Communication, University of the Arts, led by Alison Prendiville

– and several MSc Environment Change & Management students from Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute

With input from the travel planning team from Oxfordshire County Council we situated the collaboration in a specific future context: reducing car usage in the Oxfordshire town of Bicester in 2015. Two design researchers from Samsung Design Europe joined us for the workshop. Consultancy Taylor Haig lent us their service design card deck to support the collaboration.

The brief

We asked students to focus on achieving a modal shift from car to sustainable travel, focusing on employed people who are car owners.  Their brief was: What prompts and interventions can you create within the service ecology to change the practices of employed people who are car owners, that result in them using their cars less often?

Over the workshop students used methods such as research into users’ practices, visualising the service ecology and creating service blueprints to propose new services that would reduce car usage.

Guest speakers at the workshop included Dan Lockton (Design with Intent blog), mobilities researcher Tim Schwanen (Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford) and Chris Parker (Geovation at Ordnance Survey).


What the students created

A short film (4 minutes) presents some of the ideas the student teams generated. It offers a way to think about behaviour change in car usage that draws on ethnographic observations of everyday life, focusing on combinations of meaning and narrative, skills and know-how, emotions, and the artefacts and infrastructures involved.

Behave: New services to change travel behaviours from Lucy Kimbell on Vimeo.

The film and workshop were financially supported by Samsung Design Europe.