Can design-thinking tools support all aspects of work?

By Sujata Burman

Driverless Futures IMDC Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art is always innovating. There’s the Terra Carta Design Lab, spearheaded by the RCA’s royal visitor HRH The Prince of Wales and Chancellor Jony Ive, which encourages students and alumni to develop credible and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis. There’s InnovationRCA – a centre for enterprise, incubation and business support. And, there’s Executive Education, where the RCA assists industries outside the creative world, inspiring them to think in a more design-led way.

Take a masterclass in Design Thinking and Innovation with RCA professor emeritus Jeremy Myerson; delve into Service Design with industry expert Clive Grinyer; or learn more about Communication Design with graphic designer Adrian Shaughnessy. These short courses have been created for senior-level professionals, looking to develop design skills that they wouldn’t usually find in their own businesses.

“We've really tried to keep it true to the RCA, so the experience is reflective of what we do,” says Hattie Allen, Executive Education manager.

Terra Carta Design Lab Event by Royal College of Art RCA

Executive Education hopes that sharing access to elite design expertise will help to solve global problems. The initiative works like a network, too, with people joining from around the world and businesses of every type looking to learn.

"We've had people like lawyers do Design Thinking or the Service Design course,” says Peter Christian, head of Executive Education.

Most recently, the team led a bespoke Creative Leadership for Inclusive Innovation course for staff at Northumbrian Water Group – innovating across departments, from HR to Operations and Communications. They’ve also worked with HSBC, where the head of customer design, Shelagh Martin said “interacting with a wide variety of people, united by a desire to make things better for customers” had a positive impact.

A Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum found that “half of us will need to reskill by 2025, as the ‘double-disruption’ of the economic impacts of the pandemic and increasing automation transforming jobs takes hold.” This makes the RCA’s programmes more relevant than ever. The Executive Education courses connect to the RCA’s industry-facing research centres, opening up its famous design network to wider audiences.

This is what sets it apart, says Myerson: “We can draw on this rich tapestry of information, ideas and insights.” For LDF, Executive Education brings this “rich tapestry” to life at the RCA’s newest campus in Battersea – designed by Herzog & de Meuron, it’s a development in innovation for the RCA itself.

RCA Battersea Campus