Accelerating design collaboration

Students share their design research findings as part of the "Radical Collaboration @ IBM" class at IBM's Design Studio.
Students from different majors work in interdisciplinary groups as part of the “Radical Collaboration @ IBM” class at IBM’s Design Studio.

By Brooks Protzmann, Lecturer

This semester, IBM and UT joined forces to kick off a grand experiment. The challenge: How do you expose students to a professional environment, working on real-world problems, and get them school credit for it?  The answer is a partnership between UT and leading businesses within the Austin area. IBM is the first to work with the Center for Integrated Design to bring radical collaboration and design thinking to students.
Every week IBM sends a bus to UT and shuttles the students to IBM’s Austin design studio. Having class the design studio with lots of IBMers lending a hand gives the students exposure to what it is like to work at IBM and gives IBMers an opportunity to get involved with UT.
The class is a mix of students from many different majors, but they all share the common goal of learning to apply design thinking. It is amazing to hear a mechanical engineering student discussing user research with a psychology student, and to witness how both really understand how having deep empathy for your users can be a basis for innovative solutions.
I am very impressed with how well the students are able to pick up the concepts being taught, work across disciplines and create compelling solutions on par with professionals.  The level of collaboration has been great to see, and I appreciate how students unused to working with others outside of their major are able to come together and make the most of their different points of view.  The best part for me as an instructor, however, is to see the lightbulb moment of when a student really “gets it,” and it all starts to click.  As one student said recently, “This is one of the best classes I have taken at UT, and I am a senior.” That statement makes it all worthwhile.
Students share their design research findings as part of the "Radical Collaboration @ IBM" class at IBM's Design Studio.
Students share their design research findings as part of the “Radical Collaboration @ IBM” class at IBM’s Design Studio.