Integrative Thinking … Design Thinking… Why both?

I was first introduced to Design Thinking several years ago by Jennifer Chan of Exhibit Change. I’ve participated in several events run by Jenn. These include:  The Bad Kids Collective – where we considered those “bad kid” labels that permeate education; 6 Degrees of Invitation – where one person invited one interesting person to a potluck who invited one interesting person to the potluck who … you get the idea.   We ended up with an incredibly diverse group of people who shared an evening of fascinating conversation.  I think it was at that dinner that I first ran into Illana Ben-Ari of 21 Toys.  Jenn and her team are skilled at creating compelling experiences that allow attendees to explore ideas in very unusual ways.

It was Jenn’s Design Thinking for Educators and Edcamp Design Thinking that helped me re-conceive how problem and project- based learning happen in my classroom.  For the past two years, though,  Design Thinking has sat on the back burner while I explored Integrative Thinking with my students.  This term it was time for me to carry out what I had learned through Jenn as well as the many resources and chats available online. Design Thinking methodology has driven our learning.

While we’ve been learning the theory and methodology of Design Thinking, I have also been participating in the Rotman Integrative Thinking Practicum.  Rotman Ithink is considering how to structure the next step for those who’ve participated in introductory sessions on Integrative Thinking.  I’ve been part of a group of about 12 educators meeting once a month to develop deeper understanding of the theory and tools that make I-Think so powerful. It has been exceptional learning.  It has also been very  interesting to consider Integrative Thinking while working through a Design Thinking challenge with my students.  Both theories offer very deliberate processes for getting to interesting and innovative solutions when engaged in complex problem-solving.  There are, however, fundamental differences in how problems are defined, how stakeholders are considered, how thinking is made explicit, how design questions are formed, how assumptions are identified and how tensions are resolved and most of all how thinking unfolds.  There is also cross-over in methods and tools.  We’ve drawn upon I-Think tools to assist in the DT challenge.

What I’ve come to realize is that students need to experience both methodologies.  Students require a repertoire of  strategies in their thinking and problem-solving toolkit.  Exposure to both will create more effective problem-solvers.  I have been very fortunate to learn from Exhibit Change and would like to bring Design Thinking to a large audience of educators. To that end I am considering offering a Design Thinking workshop in the Toronto area this fall.   Stay tuned for more information.


  1. rocio navarro

    Hello Heidi,
    I heard you might be a speaker at Rotman again this upcoming year. I would be interested in attending one of your sessions. But I could not find a link on the Rotman Website. Could you please direct me to where I can attend a workshop on integrative thinking with you. I am a science educator from the Ontario Science Centre. I attended your presentation at STAO and I am very interested in learning more about this.
    Rocio Navarro

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