Executive Education

Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Project Course

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One of the hottest topics in the business world, design thinking helps you break through your messiest business problems with a systematic approach to uncovering creative insights and new solutions.

In this new online program, you'll apply the design-thinking process to one of your real-life challenges. Using a clear, guided process that combines creative right-brained thinking — like brainstorming and visualization — with traditional left-brained analysis, you will reach an innovative solution.

Program Overview

In this online course, you'll work through a 15-step problem-solving process using design methodologies and innovation tools. Through recorded video instruction and peer review, you'll apply each of these steps to solve your challenge. You'll study real-life case studies that show design thinking in action, for organizations both large and small, in corporate and nonprofit settings. Community forums and peer feedback will help you develop a range of innovative solutions to your challenge.

This course uses a project field book that we will put to use immediately in week one. The book is called The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Project Guide and is available on Amazon.

 Upon successful completion of the course, participants are eligible to receive a Statement of Accomplishment from the University of Virginia Darden School Foundation.

The requirements for successful completion include:

  • Watching all course videos
  • Thoughtful participation in the course forum; at least one forum post per week
  • Successful upload of the five deliverables identified: Design Brief, Design Criteria, Assumptions, Napkin Pitch, and Learning Launch
  • Completion of the end-of-course survey

Design Thinking at Work

Here are just a handful of examples of how organizations use design thinking to solve their biggest challenges.

Redesign internal processes:

  • Develop a new employee evaluation system.
  • Streamline a customer call center system.
  • Enliven strategic planning processes.

Deepen customer/stakeholder engagement:

  • Create powerful co-creation conversations with customers.
  • Improve the sales tool kit.

Address pressing social sector issues:

  • Improve meal delivery to the elderly.
  • Revitalize urban spaces.

Improve education and leadership development:

  • Embed new capabilities for creative thinking in organizations.
  • Create new social networking models.


This course is open to professionals from any industry who want to problem solve more creatively using new methods and tools. No prior experience with design thinking is necessary.


Please note: participants will need to devote approximately 32 hours to this program in total (including watching the video instruction and completing assignments), over the course of eight weeks.




This course features Jeanne Liedtka, a preeminent leader in demystifying design thinking for managers in organizations around the world.

Jeanne has authored several books on the subject, including The Designing for Growth Field Book (2014), Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works (2013), Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers (winner of the 800-CEO-READ best management book of 2011), and The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader (winner of the Bloomberg Businessweek best innovation books of 2009).

Faculty Bio Page

Key Takeaways

  • Learn the design thinking problem-solving process that is organized through 15 steps and four questions: What is? What if? What wows? What works?
  • Identify the right problems for design thinking to solve.
  • Push beyond conventional ideas to exciting concepts for new possibilities.
  • Rigorously evaluate possible solutions.
  • Identify key assumptions that must be true for success.
  • Create a prototype of the innovative change you're seeking.
  • Determine whether your solution can be implemented and create value.


  • Preparing your mind for innovation
  • Selecting your project
  • What is? Assessing today's customer/stakeholder experience
  • What if? Envisioning new possibilities
  • What wows? Finding the "wow" zone where user needs and organizational capabilities meet
  • What works? Learning in action


Over the eight weeks of this program, participants will view a total of six hours of recorded video instruction and complete about 14 hours of field work, assignments and peer-to-peer project evaluation.

This program features:

  • Carefully crafted video instruction in the systematic 15-step process
  • Community forums to support participant progress
  • Selected readings from best-selling textbook
  • Engaging stories showcasing design thinking at work
  • Interviews with successful designers
  • Video-based tool kit library
  • Peer review and feedback at milestone points

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  • Online Course Information

    19 January - 15 March 2015

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    Payment is required in advance of the program and is not refundable or transferable after the start of the program.

    Professionals from any industry who want to problem solve more creatively.

    This program is conducted entirely online.

    Additional Information:
    +1-434-924-3000 or contact the program director.