On May 17th, 14 speakers from a wide range of organizations, from software development to mass media to the academia, gathered in the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Chicago to share their views on the role of design in driving the next wave of innovation. Here’re some highlights:
Within Steelcase, importance placed on design and sustainability is high, but literacy on those topics remains low.
There is an imbalance between thinking and doing amongst the act of design within Steelcase, where doing is often over-emphasized.
To address this issue, he created a critical thinking framework for his executives (see his slide for details). Jim believes the act of design thinking should also be expanded, beyond the narrow field that is pertinent to the subject matter, but to other related fields as well. In the library that Steelcase custom-built for Bill Gates, Jim told us that he could not find books about business or software development, but books about great thinkers in history.
Jim even went as far as asking leaders in one of the business units of Steelcase to not think of themselves as furniture manufacturers, but health care equipment providers.
Jim Hackett, CEO, Steelcase
Bumshik Hong, Vice President, Innovation & New Business Development, SK Telecom
Since its establishment in 1984, SK Telecom has enjoyed phenomenal success as a mobile carrier. But unlike most utility companies that thrive to find a comfortable niche and then do everything to maintain stability within that niche, Bumshik looks to expand SK Telecom through a new model that he called ‘Human-centered Innovation’.
Instead of treating SK Telecom as an utility company, Bumshik and his executive team is implementation a vision in which the company is a Lifestyle enabling company. Innovation will be driven from improving the well-being of their customers. Their initiatives have created changes in management structure as well as processes.
Roger Martin, Dean, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Following up to his Business Week article ‘Designing in Hostile Territory’, Roger addressed the frequent conflicts between business and design/innovation teams in organizations.
He explained those conflicts with one argument — business and design teams achieve success from two polarized point-of-views. From the standpoint of a business, reliability is a paramount — the ability to repeatedly maximize gain while taking on minimal risk guarantees profit. From the point of view of design, validity is gold — it is through the evaluation of largest possible number of variables and insights from many sources, novel and new-to-the-world solutions can be created. Novel and new-to-the-world therefore, by nature, require taking business into territories that it does not want to venture.
Roger suggests that design teams should take business teams’ point-of-view as part of the design challenge, be able to speak of the language of reliability, use analogies and stores (‘quasi-past data’) to help communications, and bite off as little as possible to generate proof (fail small and recover fast). Business teams, on the other hand, should take inattention to reliability as part of management challenge, be able to speak the language of validity, be open to share data and reasons (not only conclusion), and bite off as much as possible to allow innovation.
Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired Magazine
After indulging the audience with his view on his daily work as the chief editor as the Wired magazine, Chris moved on to talk about his follow up book to ‘The Long Tail’, currently titled ‘Free’.
Chris believes that along with the niche-based economy that he described in his last book, he also believes that companies needs stop generating products and services based on scarcity models (e.g. we can’t get this because X is too expensive).
From processor speed, storage space, bandwidth and shelf space, what used to constraint development of new products has become, or can be expected to soon become, freely available. Companies that aspire to be successful in that new economy need to think beyond the limits that exist today, and sometimes artificially imposed upon themselves.
User’s attention and reputation are the new currencies in the new economy.
User’s will have direct influence in what is created, because when things are free, they are also disposable.
Polished’ will no longer be the key, it will be ‘Relevance’. (e.g. New York Times vs. Blogs).
Don’t predict (because it’s not possible), measure (by soliciting real-time feedback).
Some of the presentation slides are posted here.