UVA Darden Students Explore How Design Informs Business Strategy in Barcelona
By Jay Hodgkins
University of Virginia Darden School of Business students recently returned home from the “Strategy as Design in Barcelona” Darden Worldwide Course in Spain, fully immersed in a new environment that heightened their perceptions of the design of daily aspects of life that are often overlooked. Led by Professor Jeanne Lietdka, the aim of the course is for students to translate lessons from the world of art and architecture to the world of business by examining how creativity and innovation can drive leaders toward breakthrough thinking and new possibilities.
Second Year Catherine Aranda reflected on the trip in a recent post on the Darden Center for Global Initiatives’ Global Voices of Darden blog.
Our mission for the week was to immerse ourselves in the world of design, and ultimately, consider how design principles inform business strategy. The course focused on three iconic Spanish artists and architects — Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Antoní Gaudí. Any one of my classmates can now articulate their emotional and instinctual responses to experiencing Picasso’s 1957 series of paintings that reinterpret Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas or Dalí’s surrealist sculptures, or Gaudi’s world-renowned La Sagrada Familia.
We each carried a personal journal to document our observations and insights after every museum tour or walk through of an architectural feat. Class discussions, hosted at IESE Business School and facilitated by Professor Liedtka, helped us to make sense of each day’s robust and unique experience. In the first days, we established that great design is simple, efficient, and a delicate blend of the familiar and the new. We considered the three artists’ technical expertise, motivations for design, and audiences. Gaudí’s works, which can be found throughout Barcelona, are heavily influenced by nature and religion, with God perhaps as his ultimate critic. Stepping inside Dalí’s museum, the repeated motifs of birth and rebirth, sexuality, and distorted perception are unmistakable. Knowing more about his life and artistic development helped to make sense of his works which can be perplexing if not explained by an expert. In Picasso, the co-founder of Cubism, we discovered a man whose natural talent as an adolescent allowed him to design art in a wide-range of styles and mediums. Throughout his repertoire, we noted his love for Spanish nationalism and the exploration of his own identity within the context of his family. From all three artists, we observe boundaryless design, evolving mastery of craft, and a fearless drive to innovate.
After a thought-provoking six days in Barcelona, we came together to reflect on the course takeaways with regards to our individual creativity and ourselves as business leaders and organizational architects. For me, the “Strategy by Design” course reminded me about my love of generating and using creative and unexpected solutions in the workplace as a means of inspiring others to minimize or eliminate constraints; as designers, we are mandated to consider the vast spectrum of “what’s possible.” In the ever-changing competitive market, with advancements in technology and companies entering and exiting the landscape with greater frequency, the businesses we support and lead will need to foster cultures of innovation. As leaders, we must model for our teams how to create and execute business strategy with growth mindsets and acceptance of failure as opportunity.
Read the full story and view photos from the Darden Worldwide Course in Barcelona below.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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