Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving

An In-class Course
Course Description


Solve complex business challenges and promote industry leadership with a systematic approach to creativity and innovation. In Design Thinking for Innovative Business Problem Solving, you’ll bypass artistic abstraction and use design as a practical, everyday process to spur innovation, organic organizational growth, and effective strategy implementation.

Bridge the gap between blue-sky brainstorming and specific, executable solutions to business problems and growth. In this certificate program, you’ll learn the best procedure for generating and testing concepts-one that combines brainstorming, visualization, and other right- brained thinking with traditional left-brained analysis. You’ll learn to stop exclusively using the voice of critical reasoning. You’ll study cases of designing and artist thinking in action and work with peers and award-winning faculty to build a systematic solution for one of your current business issues. You’ll also learn the right ways to engage customer feedback and solicit new ideas, and you’ll prototype concepts and test your assumptions to discover which problems and solutions actually matter the most to your customers.


What you’ll learn:

  • Learn how designers and artists use big-idea thinking to make faster and smarter progress toward their goals-and how you can do it,
  • Discover why traditional critical reasoning can actually increase the innovation risks and costs of problem solving,
  • Practice learning launches to make quick, meaningful decisions about moving new concepts forward,
  • Reduce the new launch unknowns to a concrete list of challenges you can solve with existing resources,
  • Generate new business offerings based on the needs and suggestions of your customers,
  • Identify the sweet spot of innovation-exactly when to launch new product or service ideas and outpace your competition.


You’ll walk away from Design Thinking for Innovative Business Problem Solving with:

  • A multi-step process designed to solve one of your real-life challenges,
  • A disciplined approach to brainstorming and similar idea generation techniques and the steps to follow to get new ideas off the whiteboard and into production,
  • Ways to resolve conflict during ideation and growth and adapt your design process when business conditions demand it,
  • Ways to road test the growth potential of new ideas so you can minimize the risks and maximize the rewards inherent in growth and change,
  • Stronger innovation and communication skills and the ability to enhance them in various project settings.

Special Experiences

  • You will get a chance to work on a specific project and get feedback from the professors and other participants,
  • We will experience the arts: listen to a jazz band and discuss their process for making music, talk to designer and learn how he creates journey maps, talk to a person who uses nature as her design criteria, and hear from an expert storyteller about the power of stories in organizations,
  • Between sessions, optional experiences that enhance your skills,
  • Discuss several examples of using design thinking through actual case studies,
  • Each class period will provide time for you to work on your projects and get feedback,
  • Discuss your organization’s challenges with strategy implementation with an expert on strategy formulation and implementation.

Who is this for?

This program is designed for managers and executives who want to bring their businesses to the forefront of innovation and more successful problem-solving. It’s especially helpful for those who need to lead teams and cross-functional units in problem-solving initiatives and next-level growth ideation. Also managers responsible for implementing strategy will get many skills from these sessions. Former participants have recently used Designer and Artist Thinking‘s multi-step method to redesign internal processes to develop a new service based on user feedback, a new employee evaluation system, streamline a customer call center system, create a more effective sales tool kit, improve meal delivery to the elderly, revitalize urban spaces, create new social networking models, and improve education and leadership development within their organizations. Some participants see this course as offering improved skills over traditional market research approaches and techniques.

Career & Industry Outlook

According to a 2010 IBM survey of more than 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, chief executives believe that — more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision — successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity and creative thinking, which this Certificate in Design and Artistic Thinking will allow managers and executives to improve upon.

Conducted through in-person interviews with senior leaders and consultants from IBM’s Global Business Services division, less than half of global CEOs believe their enterprises are adequately prepared to handle a highly volatile, increasingly complex business environment. CEOs are confronted with massive shifts – new government regulations, changes in global economic power centers, accelerated industry transformation, growing volumes of data, rapidly evolving customer preferences – that, according to the study, can be overcome by instilling “creativity” throughout an organization. More than 60 percent of CEOs believe industry transformation is the top factor contributing to uncertainty, and the finding indicates a need to discover innovative ways of managing an organization’s structure, finances, people and strategy.

Course Schedule

Course Dates and Topical Overview

Program Faculty 

Dr. Daniel S. Fogel is an Executive Professor of Strategy. He specializes in strategic management, especially innovation processes in firms, including those located in emerging and transition economies and in emerging industries.  Dr. Fogel received his undergraduate and master degrees from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He has held academic positions at the University of Houston, Tulane University, and the University of Pittsburgh and has been a senior manager at two oil companies and a hospital system. His international research and teaching had been conducted in several different countries in South America, Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe. He was Dean of the International Management Center, Budapest, Hungary; Dean for the Czech Management Center in Prague, Czech Republic, and Associate Dean at the University of Pittsburgh and Tulane University. He was Professor of Business Administration and Director of the Institute for Industrial Competitiveness at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh. He was Associate Dean Working Professional Programs, Dean of Charlotte Programs and Executive Professor of Strategy at the Wake Forest University Schools of Business. He is at Wake Forest University as Director of the Master of Arts in Sustainability and is the Graduate School Research Professor in Sustainability.

His research and teaching areas are in environmental sustainability, global sustainable business and strategy including strategic change management and innovation for medium and large organizations. His current focus is on how organizations adopt sustainability practices and principles as part of their core strategies. He has published in behavioral studies, education, health care, psychology, sociology, economics, and management journals, and has written several book chapters, books, cases and popular press articles. His books include Managing in Emerging Market Economies (Westview) and Firm Behavior in Emerging Market Economies(Avebury); The Business of Sustainability , Law and Politics of Sustainability, and Measurement, Indicators, and Research Methods for Sustainability (all three with Berkshire Publishing). His current book is entitled Sustainable Strategy: A Natural Environmental Lens on Organizations and Management. (Routledge).

Dan Fogel has consulted for diverse organizations, such as Duke Energy, Bosch, PPG, General Electric (Hungary and USA), Motorola (Brazil), City of Charlotte, KeyCorp, Lockheed Martin, Lucent (Brazil), TESS (Brazil), Carvajal S.A. (Colombia), McGraw Hill, Samsung, AT&T (Corporate), Parker Hannifin, Unisys, Keviep (Hungary), Timkin, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pfizer, Inc., Holiday Inn, Inc., Pennsylvania Blue Shield, Raleigh City Government, Tuscarora, TENNECO International, Wachovia, Bank of America, ELON University, and Wake Forest Medical Center. His awards include numerous research grants, multiple teacher-of-the-year awards, a Fulbright Scholarship to Brazil, the Winner of the Yoder-Heneman Award, and several times the Distinguished Professor Awards. Dan Fogel has served and is serving on Boards of Directors or Advisory Boards within the United States and abroad and is Chairman of EcoLens, Chairman of The EcoLens Network and Chairman and CEO of SP3.

David Phillips (Class 2) is the founder of Faster Glass Consulting, an innovation advisory firm that helps organizations learn and apply the principles of human-centered design to solve complex problems and explore new opportunities. Equal parts educator, facilitator, and instigator, he empowers leaders to strengthen their organization’s innovation capabilities and create a culture that unleashes the ideas and creativity of their people.

Before forming Faster Glass in 2010, David spent six years at Bank of America developing and leading programs at the intersection of Learning, Leadership Development, and Innovation. Prior to his time in financial services, he served in a wide range of capacities in public accounting, public education, and the U.S. Air Force.

David draws on his diversity of experience to approach situations from different perspectives and to enable others to do the same. Based in Charlotte, he also enjoys being a husband, father, musician, and mountain biker, even as he is often reminded of his amateur status in all four endeavors.

David earned a B.S. in Education (cum laude) from Louisiana Tech University.

Letron Brantley, Band Leader | Jazz Revolution; Senior Data Integration Developer | Charter Communications
(Class 3) Jazzin Business.  The goal of this session is to correlate the effectiveness of a group of musicians working together to a team working together in the work place.  Letron bring 30 years as a musician to 20 years as an information technology professional to create an interesting perspective on teams in business.  Through demonstrations and vivid examples, Letron and his band, Jazz Revolution, illustrate various concepts that affect team performance which include internal/external forces, harmony, pulse, and rhythm.  The audience is engaged from the start through careful observation of the band as they work together to produce an audible product.  Further engagement from the audience is solicited through a series of activities which solidifies the correlation even more.

Currently as a business intelligence specialist, Letron is passionate about the effective use of data to achieve competitive advantage.  “It is important for companies to be sensitive to the changing world around them so that they can adapt quickly before the competition.”  Letron brings his knowledge of BI to his working band, Jazz Revolution, where he has been able to out pace many competitors in the local and regional “band-for-hire” market.

Mark Dorfman (Class 4), Principal, Bi0mimicry 3.8.  We will hear from Mark Dorfman, Principal at Biomimicry 3.8.  Biomimicry is the global leader in biomimicry innovation consulting, professional training, and educational program and curricula development. Its mission is to train, equip, and connect scientists, engineers, architects, educators, and other innovators to sustainably emulate nature’s 3.8 billion years of brilliant designs and strategies.  The “3.8” in our name refers to the more than 3.8 billion years that life has been adapting and evolving to changing conditions on the planet since the very first life forms emerged. If you think about it, that’s a staggering and, in many ways, unfathomable amount of R&D which humankind can learn from, actively apply, and use to innovate for a better world.  Over the past 14 years, our organization has helped more than 250 clients and partners redesign sneakers, carpets, furniture, manufacturing processes, airplanes, and even entire cities, all in nature’s sustainable image. In addition, our non-profit Institute has developed truly innovative programs for university and K-12/youth education as well as informal environments such as museums, zoos, nature trails, and other public spaces.

Mark Dorfman is biomimicry chemist and his work centers on the premise that living organisms, by necessity, have developed sophisticated, highly effective, life-friendly chemistries that can inspire provocative, high-performing, sustainable technology for modern society. He applies the design principles of nature’s time-tested chemical strategies to develop innovative solutions to the toxic chemical and material challenges of the 21st Century. He couldn’t image a better way to spend the work week!

Mark has worked closely with clients such as Estee Lauder, Colgate, Ashland Chemical, Natura, Johnson and Johnson, WD-40, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Conoco-Philips, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Kimberly-Clark, Patagonia, UC Berkeley’s Center for Green Chemistry, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a set of challenges as diverse as nature herself.  Prior to joining Biomimicry 3.8, Mark worked in the nonprofit sector researching and writing case studies on industrial chemical pollution prevention and waste water management practices. These research efforts influenced the creation of federal and state public policies including the Federal Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, the New Jersey Pollution Prevention Act of 1991, and the Federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000.  bios/mark-dorfman

Bill Whitley (Class 5) is a nationally recognized speaker, consultant, and author who specializes in helping insurance professionals get to the next level by attracting more clients, closing more sales, and deepening client relationships. Many of his unique sales and customer loyalty concepts are derived from Bill’s personal experience as a top-echelon sales executive who achieved and maintained an 80% presentation-to-close ratio.

In 1989, Bill leveraged his dramatic sales success by forming The Whitley Group, a multi-media sales presentation design and production company whose focus was creating sales improvement programs for clients such as IBM, Apple Computer, EDS, and AT&T.

Today, the powerful sales concepts, tactics, and techniques Bill shares with insurance agents, healthcare brokers, and financial advisors reveal, step-by-step, how to: Attract more new clients, Communicate the true value of your products, services, and personal sales representation, Engage fully with current clients, and Develop long-term trust relationships with clients that cement personal and company loyalty.

In addition to his work as a consultant and keynote speaker, Bill is author of two books that present and reinforce the unique sales training principles he presents in his seminars, The Eight Secrets of Top Performing Agents and Attracter, Engager, Art of the Rainmaker.

Program Prerequisites 

Participants must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. A TOEFL examination for non-native speakers of English is not required but students are expected to read, write and comprehend English at the graduate level to fully participate in and gain from the program. Any requests for exceptions to these requirements must be made in writing to Carol Oliff.

Program Materials 

Course materials are included in the cost of tuition. Course materials will be distributed in digital format and accessible through Sakai, Wake Forest’s learning management system. Students must have a laptop or tablet computer to access course materials.

Certificate Requirements 

To be eligible to receive a Certificate in Design Thinking from Wake Forest University, students must successfully complete all portions of the 6 week course within the allotted time period, working in close collaboration with faculty (including attendance and present for at least 5 of the 6 classroom sessions). Classes are recorded for additional review or if 1 in-class session is missed. Don’t forget to sign in for each classroom session to ensure you receive credit for the class you’ve attended.  Need more information?  Please email Carol Oliff.

Location & Parking 

Wake Forest University Charlotte Center 200 N. College Street, Suite 150 Charlotte, NC 28202

Parking is available in the Wake Forest Charlotte Center parking deck, which is adjacent to the Wake Forest Charlotte Center with entrances from either 5th or 6th Street. Please bring your parking ticket with you to class for validation.


The cost of the program is $2,500 and includes most classroom materials. Tuition is due in full at time of registration. WFU current students, alumni, faculty and staff receive a 10% tuition discount. Some partnership / scholarship discounts may be available. If interested, please email Carol Oliff or call 704-365-1717 for more information.

Payment Options

While non-credit professional certificate programs do not qualify for federal financial aid, prospective students should consider the following for tuition payment:

  • Seek employer funding or reimbursement
  • Apply for a private education loan
  • Take advantage of tuition discounts for alums, groups, and select partner organizations

Registration and Payment Form

This certificate is an open enrollment program. Application is not required. Course registration is complete when payment is processed and you receive a confirmation email. In order to register, you will need to render payment. Please begin registration when you are ready to render payment.

Registration Deadline: Friday, January 6, 2017

Classes begin Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cancellation of Certificate Programs

This course is offered contingent upon sufficient enrollment. If a course must be cancelled, all registered students will be notified at least five (5) calendar days before the course’s start date. All registered students will receive a 100% tuition refund. No fees will be charged for cancelled courses.

Refund Policy

Refunds are computed based on the date and time that a student’s request to withdraw is received in writing. Prospective students who withdraw prior to the start of a course will receive a full refund of tuition paid.

For More Information

For more information or to speak with a program advisor, please send an email to Carol Oliff or call 704-365-1717.

Testimonials…hear what other students have taken away from the course

Meg Seitz

Michael Ebeling

Bill Johnston

Joey Schoepel

Kailey Izard