Weatherhead School creates first Department of Design & Innovation

Peter B. Lewis Building CWRU Weatherhead School of ManagementCase Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, already recognized for introducing original design concepts to business management, has formed a new Department of Design & Innovation that embraces the research university’s focus on entrepreneurism, technology development and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The Weatherhead School, the first business school to create PhD programs in operations research and organizational behavior, now becomes the first to establish a design and innovation department.

“We are proud to launch the first Department of Design & Innovation in a school of management,” said Weatherhead School Dean Robert E. Widing, Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Management. “At the 10th anniversary dinner of the Peter B. Lewis Building in May 2013, the renowned architect of the building, Frank Gehry, cited Weatherhead faculty as being responsible for leading the way in adopting design practices to innovate and manage. It is therefore entirely fitting and proper for Weatherhead to combine marketing, strategic management information systems and design faculty into another innovative world’s-first department.”

The aim, said Department Chair Richard Buchanan, is to teach Weatherhead School students to apply design to imagine new alternatives, game-changing ideas and fresh perspectives—abilities essential to dynamic business leaders. “This is a department that is now oriented to innovation, studying it and creating it,” he said.

Henry Mintzberg, of McGill University in Montreal, who is frequently ranked among the world’s most important business management scholars, will present the keynote address at the Weatherhead School’s introduction of the new department on Sept. 27. His talk will take place in the lower level of the Peter B. Lewis Building from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. (For more information, contact Cheryl Lauderdale at

The new department is built on the recognition that all aspects of an organization—from vision, strategy and operations to the development of new products and services—are designed. The most successful businesses are created and driven by design that goes beyond “best practices,” or merely imitating what others are doing, explained Fred Collopy, professor of Design & Innovation and the Weatherhead School’s vice dean.

To inspire his students to think more broadly, for example, Collopy invites practitioners from outside typical business circles—product designers, choreographers, architects—to explain and demonstrate the creative problem-solving process they experience.

“Almost to a person, they don’t settle for the first idea they get. They ask themselves, ‘How do we go beyond what we and others have tried so far?’” Collopy said. “There’s a lesson in here for business people.”

The Weatherhead School’s new department expands its global reputation for providing students with the expertise of faculty who teach such cutting-edge management concepts as emotional intelligence, appreciative inquiry and sustainable value. Recently, Distinguished University Professor Richard Boyatzis, a professor of organizational behavior, attracted more than 90,000 people from 188 countries for his course on “Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence”—the school’s first free massive open online course, or MOOC.

The new Design & Innovation Department combines faculty members from the former marketing and policy studies and information systems departments. The new department is one of six at the Weatherhead School; the others are: accountancy, banking and finance, economics, operations and organizational behavior.

Among other skills, students enrolled in the new department’s curriculum will learn:

  • To develop new products and techniques of invention and discovery that lead to designing an organization in new ways.
  • New skills of entrepreneurship from technological ideas generated in the colleges of engineering and medicine.
  • How to competitively position organizations, as well as strategic-planning techniques based on customer research.
  • To map customer experience that leads to improving the quality of an organization’s services.

“The new department’s progressive curriculum will serve not only to educate students, but also bolster the entrepreneurial talent base and culture of innovation in the region,” said Joseph Jankowski, the university’s chief innovation officer.

Students in the design lab at the Weatherhead School, where teams use new techniques to discover innovative ideas, are about to get busier, Buchanan said. For example, students will learn to apply design to better serve a client or customer through involvement with various local businesses and institutions, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Marriott Corp. and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Faculty members within the new department will focus on imparting knowledge to develop organizational leaders and entrepreneurs, design strategies and operational systems, and new products and services.

“We’ve spent three years discussing what we have in common, what the future may be, and how we can position Weatherhead to better serve the region, the country and the world,” Buchanan said. “We decided this is the theme that is going to bring us together—design and innovation. We do stand out. It’s a distinctive approach. A lot of other schools are looking at this to see how we do it.”