Gareth Loudon has spent almost 30 years of his career working in commercial and academic research, specialising in creativity, including the creation of new inventions; research into the factors and processes affecting creativity; and the design and application of creativity processes and tools for product innovation. He has 5 patents to his name and 77 publications in total, including international conference and journal papers. He has won many awards including Best Software Product Award at COMDEX Asia, and for his concept design work from IDSA/BusinessWeek. Gareth is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
I am a Principal Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Art and Design and Director and co-founder of the Centre for Creativity, which undertakes research, training and consultancy in key areas of creativity. My research interests focus on creativity and innovation, combining ideas from anthropology and psychology, engineering and design.
My talk at the HEA Annual STEM Conference will highlight possible benefits of integrating ideas from ‘design thinking’ into the STEM curricula.
My own background is in engineering and technology. I have a BSc degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. I initially specialised in signal processing research and worked for Apple in the mid 1990s in speech and handwriting recognition (based in Singapore). The research work was very successful and resulted in two products by Apple. My involvement in the commercialisation of the research at Apple gave me a first insight into how product innovation was not just about technical creativity and innovation but a collaboration between multiple disciplines including design, engineering, psychology and anthropology. This resulted in my research work focusing more on how to design and apply new creativity processes and tools to product innovation, and how multi-disciplinary collaboration impacted on creativity. In 1999 I joined Ericsson Research and worked on the development of new 3G mobile concepts, applications and devices in collaboration with designers, engineers, anthropologists and psychologists.
In 2002, I moved back to Wales and joined what is now the Cardiff School of Art and Design, working in the product design team. Our research work since that time has been on the creation and use of ‘design thinking’ tools and techniques for product innovation. Design thinking is a creative process that covers principles and techniques on how to generate new ideas of value, and how to translate those ideas into new products and services. Design thinking includes a mix of divergent thinking and convergent thinking; encourages a multi-disciplinary approach to learning and problem solving; and encourages an iterative process of experimentation, prototyping and testing. Our initial research work included collaboration with companies such as Sony Ericsson, Mothercare and Samsung. Our more recent research has included collaboration with the School of Medicine at Cardiff University in the design of a new first responder pack (‘trauma pack’) for medical emergencies in Zambia and Namibia.
I believe that it is a critical for STEM graduates to be creative in order to be able to create new ideas of value for society and the economy. My view is not that uncommon. Creativity has been rated as the “most crucial factor for future success” by 1,500 CEOs in an IBM Global CEO Study. Leading educationalists, such as Professor Yong Zhao and Sir Ken Robinson, have also highlighted that students need to learn how to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial to be prepared for the economic challenges that lie ahead. My own university’s strategic plan “champions creativity, diversity, freedom and innovation” and emphasizes the need to create a “new model of curriculum delivery” that will “enable students to develop ethical, digital, global and entrepreneurial skills”. However, one of the key challenges facing academics is how to actually support this?
In recent years, I have been interested in curriculum design and on how to help students improve their creativity by exploring what is taught; how it is taught; and the environment in which it is taught. The Cardiff School of Art and Design has developed a novel curriculum structure that supports creativity through multi-disciplinary collaboration; product-oriented learning strategies; through teaching creativity techniques and processes; and by creating a balance between theory and practice.
My talk will highlight some of the underlying theory and practice of design thinking, giving examples of how it is applied in industry; how it is taught in the Cardiff School of Art and Design; and suggest how some of the ideas could be applied to STEM subjects. The session will also highlight how the ideas of design thinking align with product-oriented learning strategies advocated by Professor Yong Zhao.
I feel passionately about the importance of creativity in STEM education and what STEM subjects can learn form other arts and humanities disciplines. Hopefully my talk will at least encourage discussion on the role of creativity in teaching, learning and student engagement for STEM subjects and provide some ideas for new ways of enhancing student creativity.
To find out more about the HEA STEM Conference 2018 and to book your place please click here.
 IBM 2010 Global Study of 1500 CEOs across 60 countries and 33 industries