Engaging with Design Thinking and Regenerative Business Models with design thinking agency IDEO and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation


by Delfina Zagarzazú – OnePlanet MBA Candidate 2016/2017 

One Planet MBA Students at IDEO Workshop (photograph by Tim Pestridge Commercial Photography Photo: www.timpestridge.co.uk)

One Planet MBA participants at IDEO Workshop (photograph by Tim Pestridge Commercial Photography : www.timpestridge.co.uk)

Starting the first week of the program, the cohort of the One Planet MBA was immersed in exploring, discussing and reflecting upon the complexity of the current global challenges facing the world today (see WEF Report on 2016 Global Risks).

The business world is recognizing that operating in fragments with an isolated vision of the world has great implications on other parts of the ecosystem. It is no longer rational to believe the exploitation of resources in Africa won’t have implications on security, migration or food supply issues tied to other activities. As we enter a more fragile epoch with climate change, these operations will directly or indirectly impact our workers, supply chain and/or bottom line of our business. Digital and technological innovation are disrupting entire sectors and promoting new approaches to production and consumption while enabling new business models. The fact that we are all connected in one planet with finite space and resources at a critical time in history brings us to re-think the current economic model. It is with this reflection, that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation engages the business and academic world to think different through Circular Economy aiming to incorporate regenerative and restorative solutions into business models which can return resources to our supply chains, making a switch from linear to circular business thinking.

How do we begin to engage with this new thinking?

Creativity is essential to allow businesses to think outside the imaginary boundaries set by society of how business should be designed. Creativity and Design Thinking are currently trend words in business management strategies to drive innovation and new business thinking. IDEO was able to successfully penetrate the business world educating companies on the merits of design thinking. They are a global innovation design agency which works with businesses to find human-centered solutions to deliver product design, better user experiences and most recently circular business models. IDEO began a partnership with the Ellen MacArthur to design a Tool Kit to help businesses iterate and pilot new ideas for a circular economy.

At the OnePlanet MBA we had the opportunity with the IDEO UK Team to test the beta version of this circular economy toolkit for business. Prior to the session, our cohort had very minimal experience with circular economy, but the results in a 3-hour piloting experiment were incredibly encouraging. Students in groups of four, very quickly understood the opportunities in analyzing material flows and frameworks for introducing regenerative cycles in a supply chain, and designed the process of flipping a business from a product to a service model.

Training Future Leaders for a more circular world

As humankind we have crossed the planetary limits driving us into a current economic atmosphere of volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times. The global challenges we see today are a symptom of our unsustainable industrial processes and it is crucially important for our economy and environment to push forward new regenerative business models. As we see tangible examples and case studies of business leaders beginning to engage at a larger scale with circular economy, our cohort will continue during the year deepening its expertise and prototyping ideas as future leaders of a transitioning economy. Stay posted for where the prototyping leads us!

Recommended listen: Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, in a conversation with Harvard Business Review discusses the experience and successes of creativity and business. Listen here.

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