Spring Term Week 2 Highlights: Dean’s Distinguished Lecture

Certainly, this week’s “don’t miss” event is the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture with alumnus Trey Winthrop, the chief financial officer from Bob’s Red Mill. The Milwaukie, Oregon company is an employee-owned operation that places high value on people and relationships. Winthrop will discuss how the company balances growth, strategy and processes in such an environment. RSVP and reserve your place for the Fri., April 14, 10 am event in Stirek Auditorium (Austin 183).

Oregon State College of BusinessIn conjunction with the Austin Family Business Program, Fridays in Austin events will center on the workings of successful family businesses. You can hear from Travis Boersma, president & co-founder of Dutch Bros. Coffee (and runner-up for “don’t miss” event of the week!), who started the company with his brother. RSVP for his talk here. Other events include a discussion panel of financial advisors focused on positioning family businesses to succeed for future generations. Review the Family Business Day page for more details. It’s an all-star lineup!

Also, design students, today is the last day to sign up  for the Senior Mentoring Event. This Portland event pairs seniors in apparel design, interior design, graphic design, or merchandising management with a professional in the student’s field. Apply with your resume.

We’d like to say congratulations to Steven Miller and Moriah Shay! They are among the honorees receiving the Outreach and Engagement Vice Provost Award of Excellence for their “Thinker Tinker Trailer, The College of Business Mobile Makerspace.” In addition to the accolades associated with recognition as one of 10 outstanding examples of outreach and engagement work at Oregon State, they have won $1,000.

As well, let’s congratulate Nathan Braaten, who won the InnovationX PitchFest for his work creating wearable jewelry embedded with a safety alert system.

Remember, all of our news and events information highlights are in The Works, so don’t miss it!

The importance of design thinking

Ken Black fields questions from Sara Hart Kimball Dean Mitzi Montoya during his May 19 Dean's Distinguished Lecture.
Ken Black fields questions from Sara Hart Kimball Dean Mitzi Montoya during his May 19 Dean’s Distinguished Lecture.

Ken Black, vice president of Digital Design Future at Nike, told an audience of Oregon State students and others that the best way to be protective of your work is to be protective of your work relationships.

That was among the messages Black delivered May 19 during a Dean’s Distinguished Lecture at Austin Hall’s Stirek Auditorium.

Black believes strongly that design thinking is a critical part of a business education, and that students in all majors benefit from using a design-thinking, process-oriented technique for solving problems; taking a human/consumer-centered approach to innovation, one that puts observation and the discovery of human needs at the core of the process, is ultimately much more effective than jumping straight to a solution. It’s crucial, Black says, to always being asking “why”: Why would this idea benefit people, why does it matter, why would they be excited to pay hard-earned money for it, etc.?

Black’s lecture featured a Q-and-A format, with first Sara Hart Kimball Dean Mitzi Montoya and then the audience asking questions of Black; the dean’s guest has held a variety of creative-director roles at Nike and also helped found SPARQ, a business (subsequently acquired by Nike) that created a standardized test for athleticism and sold training apparel, shoes and other gear.

Black, who grew up in Salem, talked of his love of basketball and how he’d hoped as a high school student to have a future in the sport, but when that didn’t pan out he fell back on another love and talent – drawing – to pursue a career as a designer. He now describes himself as an artist in a corporate world.

His points during his visit to Austin Hall included:

  • Everyone is a designer on some level.
  • Creativity is awareness.
  • With passion and resilience you can get through almost any challenge.
  • Business-oriented people, wherever you end up working, find a designer to be your best friend; and vice versa.
  • Have a strong vision of where you want to go and a flexible path for getting there.

Black also noted that his career highlights include working both with legendary Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield and with Michael Jordan himself.

Black earned a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design with Honors of Distinction from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.

After the lecture, Black met with students individually.
After the lecture, Black met with students individually.

Intel futurist Brian David Johnson focuses on humanity

Brian David Johnson
Brian David Johnson talked about optimizing for concepts other than profits in his Dean’s Distinguished Lecture.

Brian David Johnson is one of the deepest and most complex thinkers in his field, not to mention the owner of one of the coolest job titles ever, but the core of the Intel futurist’s philosophy is breathtakingly simple.

“The future is built every day by the actions of people,” said Johnson, who delivered the Oregon State University College of Business Dean’s Distinguished Lecture on Oct. 28. “It’s not an accident. So why don’t we go out and build an awesome future?”

Johnson, 42, who spoke to a near full house in the 1,200-seat Austin Auditorium at the LaSells Stewart Center, has been in his role with the Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor chip giant since 2009. He explained how his role isn’t fortune telling or predicting the future, but rather something he refers to as “futurecasting,” which he defines as:

■ Developing an actionable future that can be built;

■ Understanding what people want to do;

■ Using the process to figure out how to get there.

“I deliver a spec – these are the capabilities of the platform – and then ask, ‘What do we need to do to get to that future?” he said.

And for Johnson, the key element of the future is the human beings who’ll be living in it, rather than the gadgetry, especially with the size of chips approaching zero.

“It’s always about people,” said Johnson, to whom the future usually means 10 to 15 years down the road, given the five- to 10-year cycle for designing, developing and deploying a chip. “It’s about people connecting with other people. All technology is a story. People love stories. Our brains are hardwired for stories. We can change the story people tell themselves about the future.”

During his roughly 60-minute presentation, Johnson used his 2013 book “Humanity in the Machine – What Comes after Greed?” as a pathway to two of his favorite topics: algorithms and what they, and by extension the people who commission and design them, are optimizing for.

The book is based in part on the May 2010 stock market crash triggered by high-frequency trading, and in it he explores and

Professor Barden moderates a Q&A after Johnson's lecture.
Professor Barden moderates a Q&A after Johnson’s lecture.

advocates for optimizing for goals intrinsically, and even financially, more valuable than the raw pursuit of dollars.

“You can make more money by making people happy and fostering creativity,” Johnson said. “The thing that holds us back is a lack of imagination, a lack of diversity. The future involves everybody.

“The nature of evil is thoughtlessness,” he said. “You imbue your work with humanity. You can’t turn away from that. If you do, you literally begin to create works of evil. Always try to make the world better. If you hold yourself to that higher bar, you will actually change the world.”

You can listen to the entire lecture here. For more on Brian David Johnson, follow him on Twitter, @IntelFuturist, or visit www.tomorrow-projects.com.