IDEO and Steelcase innovate on classroom chair for the future


I am a huge fan of Ideo. I like their thinking, their philosophy, and their drive for execution.

The case that is often cited when talking of IDEO is the work they did with Shimano in developing the coasting bike. Now they have done it again. Steelcase Design Studio worked with IDEO to design a classroom chair that would provide quick and seamless transitions from one teaching mode to the next. The swivel seat allows students to easily rotate and view information being shared throughout the classroom. The open seat design enables them to change postures and positions, offering comfort in multiple settings. Its mobile base offers the ability to move back and forth from lecture mode to teambased learning, without interruption.

Steelcase research shows a variety of teaching modes occur in today’s classroom, such as group discussions, team collaboration, and lecture — all of which contribute to more effective learning and instruction. Educators are turning to multiple teaching modes to support multiple learning styles. However, while teaching methods have evolved, the classrooms themselves are not designed to support multiple activities or the transitions required to employ them efficiently.

Many traditional classrooms actually inhibit current teaching methods by creating physical and social barriers between students and teachers. They have been designed for one-way learning with tight rows of desks and chairs that inhibit movement and interaction, keeping instructors confined to the front of the room, where there are few opportunities to connect with students. Students are confined to chairs that are secured to the floor or are difficult to move, forcing them to struggle to adjust to see the instructor, fellow students or content displays.

“Students today expect a more active learning environment that supports co-learning and group discussion, similar to their everyday interactions; but the classroom has remained largely unchanged for decades,” said Sean Corcorran, director of product development and marketing for Steelcase Education Solutions. “

The node classroom chair provides key features like its swivel seat to maintain open sightlines, casters for mobility and quick mode change, backpack storage and a large adjustable worksurface that supports laptops, textbooks and notebooks.”

My only question is: if this is a chair for the classroom of the future, in the future, do we need classrooms at all?

Classroom for the future

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2 Comments

Filed under Innovation

2 responses to “IDEO and Steelcase innovate on classroom chair for the future

  1. To me this points to the classic approach to problem solving, before designing the solution you must understand the problem. I bet IDEO spent far more time understanding the issues than designing the chair which was probably to some extent self evident at the design stage.

  2. Jeffrey Tobias

    I totally agree. Companies often spend a whole lot of time designing a “solution” without a “deep” understanding of the customer. To me, IDEO and P&G are experts in not just talking and listening to the customer, but watching what they do and deriving real benefits from the outcomes.

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