Course Syllabus

Columbia– Fall 2017



PLA 6574

Wednesday 7:00PM to 9:00PM



Professor Lee E. Miller

Phone: 917-690-0029


Professor Kathleen Hayes Onieal

Phone: 908-432-3058


Office Hours – We will be available before, and after, class and by appointment.       

Course Overview: Most people believe that innovation arises from extraordinary individuals such as a Steve Jobs, who through some unique source of inspiration are capable of seeing things that others do not see. While such people do exist, design thinking is a methodology available to everyone, enabling them to develop innovative solutions to real life problems.

The design thinking methodology seeks to answer the question of how do we develop solutions that best satisfy the needs of end users, when those end users do not, and cannot, know how they will respond to solutions (often enabled by new technology) that have not previously been possible (i.e. self-driving vehicles or batteries that can store solar energy). Design thinking can be used to solve complex problems by harnessing new technology to come up with innovative solutions that focus on the needs of the end-user. It offers a structured framework for identifying challenges, gathering information, identifying potential solutions, refining ideas, testing solutions and gaining support for those solutions The course will be based on the Stanford model for design thinking of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test but will examine other design thinking approaches as well.

The class will not only explore examples of how the design thinking methodology has been used in the context of urban planning and social entrepreneurship but also will be experiential and allow the participant actually to engage in the design thinking process. This course is not, however, intended to be a studio course, although a studio course where student teams apply the Design Thinking methodology to real life urban planning or social entrepreneur problems is a possible follow on to this introductory course. Course Objective: The goal of this course is to explore how design thinking can, and is being used, in the context of urban planning and social entrepreneurship.

Course Objective:

The goal of this course is to explore how design thinking can, and is being used, in the context of urban planning and social entrepreneurship.

The topics that will be covered include:

  1. What Is Design Thinking
  2. How Does Design Thinking Promote Innovation?
  3. The Innovation Mindset
  4. Developing Deep Insights Into End-Users/Stakeholders
  5. Idea Generation
  6. Testing/ Prototyping/ Systematic Experimentation
  7. Gaining Support for Innovative Ideas
  8. How Design Thinking Can Be Employed By Urban Planners and Social Entrepreneurs

Required Readings:

Jeanne Lietka & Tim Ogilvie, Designing for Growth, a design thinking toolkit for managers: ISBN: 9780231527965

Lee E Miller & Kathleen Hayes Onieal: Getting People to Believe in Something They Can’t Yet Imagine Harvard Business Review Online October 10, 2014

Class Participation:

Class Participation:

Attendance and participation are mandatory. You are expected to attend every class. Active involvement is necessary for you to get anything from this course. Familiarity with the reading material is essential. This is not a class where you will be able to “hide” and let others participate.


The course will consist of lectures, discussions, and exercises.


Final Project                                                                                                   50%

Attendance, class participation                                                                      20%

Assignments                                                                                                  30%

Readings - All readings should be completed before the class for which they are assigned. You are responsible for all the material that is assigned.

Final Project - Each project group will be required to make a presentation to the class setting forth a proposal and plan to apply the design thinking methodology to a specific urban planning problem. Topics to be submitted in writing by the 3rd class. The presentation should incorporate the lessons you have learned about design thinking during the semester and through the readings. Your presentation can be in any format you choose.

Reading Assignments

Class 1 (9-7)                                           Design Thinking Section 1

(Overview- What is Design Thinking)              

Class 2 (9-14)                                           Design Thinking: Section 2                                                                     

(Understanding What Is)                          Stanford Gift Giving Project


Class 3 (9-21)                                            Design Thinking: Section 3 

 (What If: Brainstorming & Concept Development)

Class 4 (9-28)                                            Design Thinking Section 4

(What Wows: Experimentation & Rapid Prototyping,)      

Class 5 (10-5)                                           Design Thinking Section 5   

(Stakeholder Co-Creation)      

Class 6 (10-12) HBR Getting People to Believe in Something They Can’t Yet Imagine     

(Practical Applications; Influencing for Innovation)                          

Class 7 (10-19)                                           Final Presentations

Course Summary:

Date Details