Design thinking expert to host community workshops at Grand Valley

Ela Ben-Ur
Ela Ben-Ur
Image Credit: courtesy of Ela Ben-Ur

A design thinking expert will help Grand Valley students, faculty and the West Michigan community solve challenges through multiple design thinking workshops.

Ela Ben-Ur has more than 20 years of experience consulting, coaching and teaching in design thinking research, strategy and innovation, and currently does so through her independent organization, i2i Experience. For more than 13 years prior to launching her own practice, Ben-Ur practiced design thinking at IDEO, an award-winning global design firm that utilizes design thinking to help public and private organizations innovate and grow. With IDEO, Ben-Ur worked with many notable brands, including General Motors, Advil, IAMS Company and PowerBar.

Ben-Ur will present “Design Thinking and You” on November 27 from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Mary Idema Pew Library Multipurpose Room. This event, which is a part of the Design Thinking at GVSU series hosted by Grand Valley’s Design Thinking Academy, is free and open to the public.

Ben-Ur will introduce attendees to design thinking and show them how to apply the process by using the Innovators’ Compass — a user-friendly framework she developed to help people creatively address challenges. She will also help attendees practice coaching and facilitating the process with others.

“Too often we focus on a single solution, but the Innovators' Compass allows people to consider several possible solutions while bringing creativity back into the problem-solving process,” said David Coffey, Design Thinking Academy director. “Ela's approach can be applied to planning a meal, working on a project or creating a start-up. Faculty who have seen the Compass have suggested it would even be useful in helping students to write their papers.”

Ben-Ur will facilitate two design thinking “Deeper Dive” workshops on November 28. The first will take place from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center’s Multipurpose Room, and the second will take place from 1-3 p.m. in the Seidman Forum room in the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

The morning session will teach students how to design meaningful lives, and teach faculty how to design meaningful courses. The afternoon workshop will focus on improving health care and education using design thinking.

Both workshops are free to students and faculty; there will be a $10 admission fee for community members. To RSVP and for more information, visit

Ben-Ur earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT where she specialized in design and developed a force-feedback laparoscopy simulator for the Massachusetts General Hospital. The patented simulator is on display at the MIT museum.