I was speaking a keynote yesterday at an Innovation Camp. It was great place to share our stories and our journey to make innovation a ‘business’ discipline. I showed the audience the path to innovation is never a logical one. The fuzziness goes beyond the front end and extends into the late stage and innovation involves more than just design, it requires selling, positioning and marketing.
Innovation is more than just product design and even more than business strategy. If you think about it today, we are in such as mess… healthcare, financial, technology, media, geopolitics, sustainability etc…. and think if innovation is about figuring out what those problems mean to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating.
In a few short months, Idea Couture will be celebrating another anniversary year with many happy clients, and some people have been here for three years. We are adding new people every month and some are spreading across different geographies (SF and India are next), it will be harder for everyone to know everyone and no one likes that.
I have been lucky (by design) consistently finding the brightest and most creative people to join the IC family. I will NOT settle for less. My time is too valuable to spend on people who don’t the potential and motivated to become the best. I’ve heard a few times from some my staff that my standard is too high …. both on research, design and strategy. But that’s the way it is and will always be. My job is to ensure we have the most rigor innovation process (from insight gathering to opportunity mapping to design /prototyping) and our outputs supersede the best in the industry. I don’t make compromise.
When Idea Couture was founded, it was based on a few premises 1/ we need both analytical thinking as well as creative thinking to solve wicked problems for our clients 2/ we need to develop a set of robust tools as part of our innovation process 3/ we need to bring user into the process as early and as often as possible, call it participative design.
I never stress enough the importance of combing D-School and B-School thinking (our TM slogan) and believe that they are crucial to innovation management. Today's management concepts that are taught in B-schools are heavily based on "optimization" and "scale economics" and the fact that businesses need to make better use of resources and exercise their power in order to gain competitive advantage. However, this suggestion does not address “size” and can create other problems including legacies and bureaucracy that may hinder imagination and opportunities. I believe that the next generation of design thinkers can effectively use both sides of their brains to produce a winning combination and in turn move knowledge forward.
There are three people (visionary or gurus) who were early advocate of similar thinking beyond just academic debate but in a highly practical sense and probably positively influenced many people in business and design:
Tom Peters, 68-year old management consultant turned author/speaker/guru started more than 10 years ago telling executives the importance of innovation (beyond traditional technological definition) and how companies should “strive for strangeness and he as an early advocate of the "culture of prototyping." One interesting quote from Peter is "The dumbest mistake is viewing design as something you do at the end of the process to 'tidy up' the mess, as opposed to understand it's a 'day one' issue and part of everything.
Patrick Whitney, a 54-year-old Canadian native who is Dean of the IIT (Institute of Design in Chicago), the largest graduate school of design in the US. Whitney is a visionary leading a new movement to modernize and professionalize the discipline of design/innovation that is closer to the real business world. Whitney is turning design into a core methodology of innovation and is integrating the best of business and design thinking, taking away the airy-fairly from idea generation brain-storming. This is a big unfilled gap for many organizations and will continued to be one.
Well the third one is Bruce Nussbaum (ex Business Week innovation and design editor). He is now professor of Innovation and Design at the Parsons School for Design and I am sure most of you know him. He is not a designer or consultant. He is credited with bringing innovation and design to mainstream and an early advocate to suggest designers to take the lead in the transformation. Design has become very much an innovation industry. He is not just talking about the design of one product, but the design of the whole process of innovation in a company. Designers are thinking of themselves more as consultants and moving into what traditionally has been a management consulting function, providing "tutoring" on innovation as well as product design.