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New Dal Innovation Course Open To Students From All Faculties

“Ideas are a dime a dozen” or so the old idiom goes. If that’s the case, then, how do you know which ideas might be worth a lot more than a dime? If you have an idea that can improve people’s lives, how do you make it happen?

Dal prof Mary Kilfoil wants to get students thinking about these questions — and not just business students, either. With her new course launching this fall, undergrads from all Dal faculties will have the chance to learn how to start bringing their “light-bulb” moments to life.

“Innovation: A Practical Approach to Concepts and Implementation” is being taught in both Halifax and Truro this fall, open to undergrads in third year or above from any Dal faculty. The elective takes students through the process of transforming an idea into implementation.

“We have ideas all the time, but we’re not used to cultivating them,” says Dr. Kilfoil, who will teach both sections of the course. “A student sees something in his or her everyday life that they want to change or improve or solve and think ‘I can do that better.’ We want to help students identify good ideas and the kinds of discovery and information processes they can use to develop them.”

Applying design thinking

The course builds on another one of Dr. Kilfoil’s classes, “Starting Lean,” which garnered a great deal of attention last fall. “Starting Lean” is based more in entrepreneurship theory and practice, whereas “Innovation” focuses on the more foundational process of starting to develop ideas.

“It’s not just for students who see themselves starting a business someday; it’s for students who want to be innovative thinkers wherever their career takes them,” she says. “From industry, to government, to the non-profit sector and academic research, organizations are looking for people who can innovate, who can bring good, implementable ideas to the table.”

The course is a pilot this year, with 20-30 students in each section. (Though the timeslots don’t line up exactly, Dr. Kilfoil is planning to find ways to have the Halifax and Truro students interact throughout the course.) Students will learn how to apply design thinking to their ideas and will get to meet industry leaders with experience cultivating and nurturing cultures of innovation. “They’ll understand the amount of work it takes to bring an idea from its original concept to something tangible.”

Asked what excites her most about the class, Dr. Kilfoil says it’s the opportunity for students to spend time considering their own ideas.

“Really great things can happen when we unleash the innovative, creative capacity in our students,” she says. “When you bring students together from different faculties, different disciplines, there’s amazing potential for creativity and as-yet-unknown ideas to be generated.”