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Design Thinking the focus of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Ladies event

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Entrepreneurs utilize countless innovative strategies to identify needs, tackle issues, and connect with customers. Design thinking is just one approach to creative problem solving and was the focus of the latest Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Ladies speaker series at Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV).

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation by using empathy, creativity, and iterative problem solving to foster ideas and solutions. A record 89 attendees were on hand to hear from Laura Cruz, research professor at the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at University Park, who offered not only 90 minutes of education and hands-on activities, but plenty of energy and enthusiasm to encourage participants to utilize both their individual and team problem solving skills.

Cindy Evans, director of business development at LV LaunchBox, said design thinking is the perfect approach for entrepreneurs. “Design thinking requires you to step outside of yourself and look at the customers’ perspective. This approach tells you what the customer needs, not what you think they need. This gives you a sense of empathy. Then you use your creativity to solve a problem.”

Cruz had the attendees engage in an activity — solving the problem of morning stress. The session began by understanding the individuals’ needs, wants, and objectives to get through the morning. Working in small groups, teams defined the difficulties and barriers and used them to develop a clear problem statement.

“Once the groups framed the problem in a user-centered way, the energy in the room increased, as it was time to come up with as many ideas — Cruz encouraged at least 25 — to solve the problem,” Evans said.

Beyond their own ideas, group members were tasked with brainstorming how three famous women might solve the problem of a hectic morning routine.

“For instance, Michelle Obama would likely plan meals so she was sure to eat healthy food in the morning,” Evans said. “It gets you thinking outside of your own head about how someone else would solve the same problem. Then you go through that and find the most realistic situation out of those 25 that could actually work. What can we actually use to solve the problem? Then you change the solution to meet the problem.”

By working and brainstorming together, individuals who may not have known each other prior to the event connected in unexpected and rewarding ways.

“The room was filled with laughter, community, and provided a space for four random individuals to develop ideas and form a bond that promises to increase four small Lehigh Valley businesses through collaboration, ideation, and problem solving,” Evans said. “We are excited to watch as these businesses use LaunchBox program to create a business plan that will mutually benefit their individual businesses and capitalize on the question of ‘How might we…?’”

Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Ladies speaker series events are held monthly on the PSU-LV campus. Events are free but registration is requested. T