Students At Parsons and The University of Cincinnati Are Innovating And Generating Economic Growth.

It’s easy to get pessimistic in this holiday season as major institutions in our lives, especially the financial institutions, break our trust. But we shouldn’t despair. I recently visited two senior design/innovation classes in Cincinnati and New York where the students were so wonderfully brilliant that my own personal gloom was lifted and replaced by hope.

I’m a Professor of Innovation and Design at The New School these days (while still blogging and working for Business Week) and dropped into a senior thesis class in Design Management/Strategy at Parsons. The presentations were excellent, especially one concept on creating a salon/spa for women undergoing chemo who lose their hair. The student really understood how these women feel, what they really experience on so many levels when they lose their hair during treatment. She researched the process of buying a wig. And she came up with an idea for a nurtured oasis for women, where they can buy the latest in fashionable hair, relax, get pampered and restored after their chemo treatments. The concept is two degrees away from VC money. Every hospital should have one—perhaps they should be away from hospitals. The insight, empathy, and creating of this student—and the potential for developing a real business off her design insights—raised my spirits.

Last week I was at DAAP, Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati. Craig Vogel, a wonderful innovation educator, has started the Living Well Consortium sponsored by several companies including HP and P&G. I saw student presentations and they, too, were excellent. One was a redesign of the hated hospital gown. Teams of fashion, product and business students came up with lines of gowns that allowed access to the body but also provided privacy and, well, a bit of beauty and class. There were pants for men—and women— who have issues wearing dresses with their butts hanging out and a several “lounge wear” outfits that could be sold in regular clothing stores. Again, the students understand the patients and came up with innovative ideas that could be commercialized.

Entrepreneurs and corporations alike would do well to move down the supply chain of innovation to tape into this well of student creativity.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.