Nate Young, the senior vice president of global innovation at Newell Rubbermaid, came to the L. William Seidman Center at Grand Valley State University Monday, March 20, to give a lecture on the application of design thinking in business.
Young talked to students about his experience in the business world and how design thinking helped him throughout his career. He defined design thinking as “the whole-minded process for discovering the new.” In his presentation, he talked about the importance of having a marketing team and an engineering/manufacturing team in a business, but he said the design team was the driving force behind it all.
Newell Brands is the owner of a diverse portfolio of brands, including Yankee Candle, Elmer’s, Sharpie, Paper Mate, Crock-Pot and many others. As the senior vice president of global innovation, Young said his job wasn’t necessarily to invent the new but rather to reinvent the old and make it new.
“Making simple come to life is really, really hard,” Young said. “How do you take a classic thing like a Sharpie and make it better? What’s crazy about having this portfolio we have is that everything has potential. I really enjoy that.”
Linda Chamberlain, the Frederik Meijer Endowed Honors Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Honors College, introduced Young and said she has known him for many years, having met him before he became known for his innovative thinking.
“He’s responsible for energizing, accelerating the company’s innovation funnel and driving a more innovation-centric culture deep within Newell Rubbermaid,” Chamberlain said.
Young talked about the various ways to go about design thinking. He said the application of a new idea is just as important as thinking up the idea itself, and what’s difficult is finding “what’s next.”
Young said he hopes students are inspired by his success in innovation so they can go and be successful themselves.
“I hope I can encourage them that it’s pretty limitless what they can do and accomplish,” Young said. “I hope they just feel encouraged that they can pursue what they want to do, and with the right support, they could probably get it done.”
Director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, Jeffrey Chamberlain, said he hopes students are inspired by Young.
“When you put the list of brands his company owns and what they do in terms of design, I hope they’ll see themselves being into one of those things,” Chamberlain said.
Design thinking according to Young does not focus on problems in the world but rather opportunities that are not yet problems. He said that is the reason design thinking is crucial to business culture.
“A logical world would say, go find a problem and figure it out,” Young said. “Design thinking says there’s problems, but there are opportunities too. Go see what new opportunities are out there.”
This lecture is part of an ongoing series by The Meijer Foundation, inviting professionals to GVSU to give talks about their experience in the business world and how it ties into the importance of liberal education.