Furman University has tapped Joseph Heritage ’07 to lead a new program that will help students and professionals excel in the workforce and their communities.
In partnership with Prisma Health, the program focuses on the design thinking concept. According to Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman’s Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, this approach places the needs of customers or end-users at the center of the creative process when designing services or solving problems. In this way, designers develop new solutions to old problems in a way that improves users’ lives.
Herrera wants to grow a culture of innovation on the Furman campus, and he believes that one of the ways to drive that change is to train students – and at some point, faculty – in this human-centered approach to design.
Students in the program will train as fellows who earn a certificate while gaining real-world experience working on actual problems. Then they’ll be able to take these skills into the workforce when they graduate. The initial cohort will be 25 students who are part of the Furman Innovation Council.
“This is The Furman Advantage through the lens of innovation,” Herrera said.
Workshops also will be open to local businesses and nonprofit organizations to help them solve their problems, with a goal of creating a design thinking innovation hub housed at the Davies Idea Exchange on the Furman campus. These workshops will bring design thinking training to Furman students, to the campus community and to the Greenville community at large.
Developed at Stanford University more than a decade ago, design thinking is gaining momentum around the country, according to Dr. David Cull, vice president of academic and clinical integration at Prisma Health. “A lot of folks don’t realize that innovation is actually a process that, once you learn it, can be replicated over and over again,” he said.
There may be no better example of design thinking than hospitals and businesses reimagining how to operate as a pandemic rages.
“Imagine the change that can occur if you teach the workforce that process,” Cull said. He believes that by using these design thinkers across our organization as change agents unto themselves, Prisma can become a high performing health care system that is able to solve those problems on the ground.
Heritage believes that “layering the mindset of human-centered design on top of the design thinking process allows us to design with empathy and develop creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. I think about different users’ points of view and strive to create the best solution that takes those multiple points of view into account so that everybody wins.”
Heritage, an Ohio native who earned a history degree, co-founded a nongovernmental organization named Freedom Global and worked in a refugee camp in Kenya from 2007 to 2015, focusing on economic development and education.
Upon returning home, Heritage earned a master’s degree in international development at Columbia University, where he served as the design lead at Columbia Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Design.
Heritage was ready for a change when he was contacted by Cull, who was looking for a director of innovation and design for Prisma. So he moved to Greenville for that role, which morphed into the joint designer-in-residence position with Furman Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Heritage will spend three days a week at Furman and two days at Prisma’s innovation office, which develops ideas into marketable devices and products. He will also teach workshops at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.