March 03, 2016
'Knowledge is important, but thinking is a higher level goal'
Jewelry + Metals professor Matthew Hollern’s contribution to the recently published Designing: Business and Management, edited by Sabine Junginger and Jürgen Faust (Bloomsbury Academic Press), speaks to the benefits of new approaches to thinking and problem-solving in the business world. Hollern, a veteran faculty member at CIA, has received numerous national and statewide research and professional development grants. His work is in collections at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Design Museum Helsinki - Finland, the Vatican Archive, the Ohio Crafts Museum, the Cleveland Art Association, and elsewhere.
Since 2002, Hollern has participated in and helped convene several conferences — from Cleveland to Barcelona — with a focus on design and business. The work in the new book grew out of those conversations.
Could you explain a bit about the scope of the book and its audience?
This book advances concepts of design thinking, and other domains of designing, for businesses and managers. It is hoped that a design approach will improve service provisions and develop innovative services and products.
For the uninitiated, what is design thinking and how does it differ from other kinds of thinking?
While it is not always apparent, we are all engaged in different modes of thinking. As artists and designers, we apply a particularly wide range that includes critical thinking, creative thinking, abstract thinking, analytical thinking, divergent and convergent thinking, and more. Diverse thinkers working together is a model of collaborative design thinking. We work together and we make one another think differently through provocation, discourse, reflection (and repeat). It is inclusive, and suggests that thinking may be the province of one, but design thinking is the product of many. The province of design cannot be substantively extended without design thinking and designing, a meta-design model.
How pervasive is design thinking in education and private enterprise? Is this a movement — say, to replace that old “strategic plan” kind of thinking you referenced in your chapter?
Design thinking represents an emerging design domain important to education and business. Design education and design thinking are critical to innovation, and the development of new products, services, and business.
How are design-thinkers created?
At its best, higher education must continue to model itself as a laboratory of design thinking, a “collaborator,” a working conference. It should afford provocation, discourse, reflection, theory, exercise, critique, iteration, innovation, renewal (and repeat). A school of art and design should be a laboratory where new thinking models are developed and exercised.
Is there a paradox in the idea that people often pursue the arts out of a sense of expressing their individuality, and yet many of the best things to come out of the arts represent collaboration?
Collaboration is critical to addressing very large problems and projects. This is common to design, but paradox to art. In fact, we find that art and design are inspired from within and without. The “personal” and “individual” in art are unique experiences, which paradoxically serve to inspire ideas that often become metaphors common to all, in a shared set of themes of the human experience.
You have said that education itself is an area of deep interest to you. Beyond the obvious (you’re a professor), why is that?
During my professional life, education has gone through a paradigm shift wherein the teacher is no longer the source of knowledge, but rather the guide. Knowledge is important, but thinking is a higher order goal. Education will always have archetypes and practices that require rethinking and new innovative ideas. It is critical that we relentlessly reinvent education for the future.
You have this great quote (below) about “green education.” Do you think this is a concept that can translate to any kind of educational system?
I have worked on this metaphor for more than a decade. It is an important idea to me, which offers a promising and sustainable model for education.
A school of art and design should be a laboratory where new thinking models are developed and exercised. In this laboratory, curriculum is catalytic to experiences, strategic to achieving objectives, and ultimately active in designing, thinking, and learning. In a model where “knowledge” has long been the “text” of education, design thinking and learning can be the metatext. In this model, the education of designers is a process of cultivation of sustainable attributes, a “green education.” It is a process akin to farming, not manufacturing. It benefits from cross-pollination and symbiosis. It is not assembled, dispensed, or completed by the institution. It requires provision of space, light, time, and synthesis. It is collaborative.
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