Any parent of a teenager today can likely relate to receiving their fair share of absurd text messages making pleas for rides, food and money. Some of them are so ridiculous and humorous that I’ve started to collect them for future laughs…maybe a wedding roast in the distant future. But last night, I received one of those texts from my 20 year old son on his way home from university which jolted me from my usual end of the day fatigue. Here it is:

I think u should buy me a

new scarf. Because I just

gave mine to a homeless


Shamefully, he does not come by this nature from his parents. I went to university in the self-absorbed 80’s: my degree was about making money, and my public speaking event was entitled “Yuppies”. In contrast to my son, my modus operandi as a boomer university student was to see how many homeless people I could avoid eye contact with.

Today the university landscape and the student mindset is much different. Social innovation, sustainability and design thinking are beginning to weave into many faculties. My son attends one of few undergraduate programs in North America where he’s taught design and design thinking curricula mixed with math, english,  computer programming and the typical Bacheolor of Arts and Science subjects. As a parent, the massive difference I’ve observed in his program at SFU (SIAT) in  one word is – openness. Not just openness in the typical liberal minded, cerebral meaning; but openness to feeling, seeing, collaboration and most importantly, openness to respond. As a design firm owner, it’s super encouraging to see the combination of social innovation and design thinking being embraced at our universities. But as exciting as it is to witness this shifting emphasis  and what it means for this new generation, it’s even more incredible  to see it at the level of individual response – especially when it hits home.

To check out some of this new thinking at universities, here’s a couple of upcoming webinars:

Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Management at UofT: Free Webinar Feb 10, 2011 on Design Thinking: The Next Competitive Advantage

Stanford Social Innovation Review & IDEO: Webinar Feb 10, 2011 on Design Thinking for Social Innovation

One Response to “Openness”

  1. I want to see an image of the scarf you bought him! Or maybe you bought him a box of scarves to distribute to other homeless people? Seeing IS believing!

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