Design!publiC Panel Discussion 4: The Theory and Practice of Innovation

15:06 M.P. Ranjan talks about how good design or good innovation is not necessarily about money – it is a matter of thinking about solutions, with passion, empathy, responsibility and commitment. Gives an example of good design in the Daily Dump project by Srishti professor and designer.

15:04 Design can provide really valuable ways of opening and viewing challenges. Data visualization is a big challenge for design these days. Design for processes is extremely important. If policy processes were made more transparent and visualized, it would be extremely valuable.

15:02 Do policies help shape our cities? Yes, of course they do, says M.P. Ranjan. Look at the way policies for traffic systems have changed the ways our roads are wider — we might have solved the vertical movement challenge in a universally accepted way, but what about horizontal mobility? Instead of continuing this way and then applauding the Tata Nano, why aren’t we discussing completely new models of transport like mini monorails?

15:00 Food security — in what ways can we design better? Look at it as a system, urges Subrahmanian, and automatically policies will come into play. We need to look at outcomes in a completely different way.

14:58 Reto talks about the exciting changes in design, like how there are increasingly more DIY projects – from making home decorations to building houses. Professional designers are making toolkits for the layman, and sometimes this means there is less opportunity for them to benefit monetarily.

14:55 M.P. Ranjan talks about how design is changing rapidly, but the education of design is not changing in India. This is especially something that needs to be addressed in government-sponsored design schools like NID. Should we include more program like service design and policy design in design colleges?

14:54 Harsh talks about how the National Planning Commission and the GOI is attempting a massive food security program, but within the design of this program, they have not asked the poorest their opinions about how they would like their food secured.

14:53 When you talk about participatory design, how can you ensure that you don’t just take people for the sake of participation, but in fact include those who are least included, the most marginalized?

14:52 Can design be thought of in economic terms? What is the role of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand in the discourse on design.

14:47 Sub talks about how failure is in itself not irresponsible, but also it is necessary to learn from these failures, and to not repeat these mistakes, as that is where true responsibility comes into play.

14:46 Design is like dancing while wearing handcuffs and being tied up, says Reto, and you have work within constraints and try and create the best possible solutions.

14:44 The luxury of having the space to fail is a nice idea, but how can we keep some checks and balances so that we are not continuously failing? How can we render some transparency and accountability to failure?

14:43 Subrahmanian talks about how politics is integral to design.

14:41 Reto talks about participation in service and policy design, saying that the sooner participation happens in the design process of services and policies, the less problems you will encounter with implementation and realization.

14:38 Subrahmanian talks about how, while failure might be inevitable, the lesson we need to take is that failures can teach us what not to do. If you keep making the same mistakes again, though, and you continue to fail in the same ways again and again, that is not ideal.

14:36 M.P. Ranjan talks about how failure is inherent to the design problem, as is ambiguity, not being able to know the eventual outcome. This is something to do with synthesis, and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

14:33 Is failure (or at least the willingness to fail) an integral part of good design? Reto talks about how prototyping and all the processes that designers are open to and integrate failure within themselves.

14:28 M.P. Ranjan talks about how there is a whole spectrum of definitions of design and designers. On one level, we are all designers, but on the other hand, there are specialists in different areas of design. Another aspect of design is that it is at the edge of the future. Designers may not even know what they will create, however. Every design research task is a knowledge generation task.

14:27 Subrahmanian talks about how many of us have been conditioned to think of ourselves as non-designers. That is where the mistake starts.

14:25 Reto talks about the useful tool of co-creation, which has evolved from the whole history of design, and can now be used to solve highly complex problems.

14:23 Reto talks about wicked problems, problems that are so large and mutable and have no ready solution. Designers are quite good at solving wicked problems, he feels, because even something like designing a chair is a multi-disciplinary process with great value, as can be seen by the fact that people are still designing chairs.

14:22 Design is a mobile phone, and the missed call is the innovation, says a participant.

14:19 Reto talks about how the entire morning, the conversation around innovation has stemmed from entirely different ideas and definitions of innovation. Good design and good innovation should both fit humans, he says — they are not separate from each other.

14:17 Aditya asks if we can theorize about how innovation and design are related. M.P. Ranjan comments that design can often be innovative, but that not all design is so. Moreover, he says, there is a perception these days that innovation is all about breakthroughs. This, he thinks, is erroneous.

14:15 M.P. Ranjan: Design definitely brings about value, but that not necessarily mean it is about monetary value. If you want just that, you will have to ask the bankers, and they are failing right now.

14:14 Subrahmanian: Good design, especially in infrastructure and

14:13 Reto: The strong focus on the visual is not a complete definition. In Germany, we think of most of design as invisible.

14:11 Aditya: Reads a definition of design from the glossary, asks panel to comment.

While many in the media and in industry talk loosely about innovation and its importance, this panel will struggle to describe, in as precise terms as possible, exactly what innovation is, in its essence, as a cognitive, interactional, creative, and business-economic activity. Can Designers, Innovation Specialists and Social Scientists agree on this questions? We’ll soon find out!

This panel includes Reto Wettach , an accomplished Service Designer based in Berlin, where he heads IxDS, Dr. Eswaran Subrahmanian, chief research scientist at the Center for Study of Science, Technology, and Policy (CSTEP), M. P. Ranjan professor emeritus at the National Institute of Design, current adviser on India’s design policy, and wild theorizer on social, cultural, aesthetic and visual change in India at his blog Design For India. Aditya Dev Sood, Founder and C.E.O. of the Center for Knowledge Societies is the moderator.

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