The Centre for Integrative and Design Thinking

What would happen if an entire community became

better at thinking, collaboration and complex problem-solving?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering for the past few months as I observe interactions between students,  parents and children,  family members, colleagues, unions, government decision-makers, non-profits, the private sector and the people I encounter who hold entrenched positions that prevent them from finding value in the ideas of others.

The number of times I’ve seen people communicate and think their way into roadblocks and “stuckness” has given birth to an idea:  The Center for Integrative and Design Thinking where any person or group in a community can learn the strategies and tools of complex problem-solving.

To that end, I’ve been meeting with various people to discuss creating a Social Enterprise for complex problem-solving and what’s surprised me is the enthusiasm with which the idea of a Center for Integrative and Design Thinking is greeted.  The common response I’m getting, no matter what the field of  the person with whom I share my idea is: “Oh, that is so needed and would fill a gap”.

I’ve met with several people in the private sector who’ve expressed frustration at the lack of problem-solving skills in the people they hire.  Complex-problem solving is a hit and miss target in education.  We talk about it, we might incorporate parts of it,  but rarely do we teach students how to strategically think and collaborate their way through wicked problems in order to deliberately arrive at innovative solutions.  Teachers, certainly are not trained to teach this and there currently is no place in the curriculum where the entire process is taught.  I’ve spoken with a range of people – from someone creating anti-bullying programs to parents of unemployed university grads whose children are participating in government programs but where the entrepreneurial thinking and problem-solving skills needed to survive in the new economy are not addressed.  All are intrigued by the idea.

My vision is to create centers where the tools and processes of integrative and design thinking are accessible to everyone.  I would like all children in our community to have exposure through free participation in after school programs, summer camps and school experiences.  I see this fitting in well with the rise of maker spaces and learn-to-code opportunities.

I also envision a blended model,  where free programs for children are sustained by offering integrative and design thinking corporate training, or where businesses looking to improve the problem-solving skills of employees could pay for services, or where the government provides funding so the unemployed can learn the thinking strategies needed to survive in the new economy. I would also like to create interdisciplinary events where diverse communities come together to think about and experience solving complex problems using the tools of integrative and design thinking as the strategies, tools and stance are applicable to any field.

That’s the beginning.  A few events have been planned as the Center takes shape.

Next February I’ll be launching a one day Design Thinking for Educators.

Summer of 2016, a prototype summer camp will begin.

Over the next year I’ll continue to meet with those interested in supporting the idea and will seek funding to get started.

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