Nurturing Risk is Essential to Innovation

Jacob Koshy, in a recent WSJ article, wrote about how, despite the fact that India has been labelled as a nation of innovators and has embarked on a self-declared decade of innovation, this is only true in the loosest sense of the word. Most often, examples of so-called ‘Indian innovation’ are limited to improvising, tinkering, and quick-fix solutions – in other words, jugaad. Koshy observes:

…apart from the immediate, simplistic appeal that this tinkering or ‘jugaad,’ presents—of a poor, uneducated villager developing a water-bicycle that can be pedaled across a river, or a school dropout fashioning a pedal pump-powered washing machine—we rarely hear of these mavericks improving on their designs, or licensing their work to a company.

Why is there such a failure in translating these creative improvisations into successful, marketable innovations that add real value? [Read more...]

On the Relationship between Trust and Innovation

As Design Public III inches ever closer, we’ve been trying to articulate, and more deeply understand for ourselves, what we mean by Trust, Participation and Innovation, and how they relate to each other. Over the next weeks, we will be sharing our thoughts and research on these questions, the first of which is concerned with trust and how it relates to creativity, and by extension, innovation.

Why Trust?

This past year has been rife with protest, from the Ram Lila grounds to Tahrir Square and Zucotti Park, all of which appear to have sprung from a breakdown in trust: society, or the public at large, seems to have lost faith in their governments as well as private corporations, no longer trusting that these entities are working in their interest. This breakdown in society’s trust in its largest, most long-standing institutions is a crisis with very wide-ranging consequences in the social as well political sphere.

Anna Hazare en route to Ram Lila grounds

At CKS, however, we are most concerned with how this crisis of trust impacts innovation, which as we see it, is twofold. [Read more...]

China’s Need for Innovation

Minxin Pei, professor of government at Clairmont McKenna College in California recently wrote an article “Nixon Then, China Now” explaining China’s weaknesses hindering its ability to truly compete as a world power. He argues that China’s one-party regime results in the inability to innovate and keeps it from being a true contender against the minds and ideas of the West and Japan.

Since Nixon’s visit in 1972, China has emerged from its self-imposed isolation to become a rival power to dominant industrialized countries politically, economically, and militarily. It has strategically exploiting the benefits of free trade, and it is often remarked that China may soon take the place of the United States as the hegemonic power in the international system. However Pei argues that China is unprepared for deeper integration with the globalized world.
[Read more...]

Imagination at Work

What is your preferred way of leaving a meeting, by fireman pole or by slide? Companies that work in the realm of creative innovation have designed environments for their employees that encourage imagination, activity, and fun.

Lego’s Denmark office is such an example. The design of the open ground floor, scattered with couches and Lego displays, encourages interaction amongst designers during the creative process. And when business meetings must take place upstairs, the slide provides a quick get away.

Lego’s employment philosophy is intrinsically tied to their product, proclaiming that, “Creativity is at the heart of the LEGO Group. So we build it systematically into everything we do. In the same playful and highly imaginative way that children transform a pile of bricks into a jumbo jet or a fairytale palace, we bring imagination to work everyday – in the way we go about our jobs, our experience-based approach to learning and our inventive career development.”
[Read more...]

What is the Relationship between Innovation and Design?

By Aditya Dev Sood

The classic theory of innovation is provided in economic terms by Joseph Schumpeter, who listed several different kinds of changes that could be brought about through entrepreneurial activity. These include the discovery and creation of new markets, the development of new methods of production and transportation, as well as new forms of industrial organization, and new kinds of consumer goods. All these different kinds of entrepreneurial activity require creative thinking, resourcefulness, planning, forethought and continuous compensatory action. In other words, they require that specifically human ability for intentional social or material change, which we may call design.

However, of all the different dimensions of entrepreneurship identified by Schumpeter, there is one, which seems to have a greater impact on our collective consciousness, which seems to shape culture, and which may in fact create greater value than all the others. This is the last area of innovation listed above, the creation of new kinds of consumer good. For in creating a consumer good, one is also already creating new kinds of experiences, new propositions about how to experience and live in the world, one may be instantiating and imbuing into a product or service new ideologies about what is good and valuable. There is therefore, a larger role for design in this particular area of innovation, which necessarily encompasses the different ways in which a product or service is experienced, including its very brand, identity, packaging, color, finish and materiality, form, user experience, all of which come to bear cumulatively on the underlying technology and platforms through which it may be delivered.

If, as Schumpeter more or less says, innovation describes the business or economic dimension of the forward movement of society under capitalism, then the immanent, cognitive or mental aspect of this forward movement can be captured by the term design. It is the multivariate, parallel, sometimes collaborative process of finding solutions to problems that have no obvious and available answer.

Whereas the language of design gained prominence in the Industrial Age as a means for the rendering of surfaces and finishes for the more effective marketing of consumer products (‘posters and toasters’), the concept has far wider application in the present. The most effective practitioners and users of design in contemporary times have proved, time and again, that a multidimensional approach to design that encompasses all levels and aspects of the user experience, including the making and reinforcement of meaning and value for the user, also yields the greatest success in the market.

How can techniques developed for the creation and distribution of consumer goods be relevant for the solving of large social and public challenges? While no close relation between these two areas of human activity may immediately suggest itself, a moment’s reflection will reveal that the large and intractable challenges that we encounter in the public sphere are also multivariate, complex, with multiple stakeholders and competing definitions of the problem and therefore of its possible solution. It is precisely for these reasons that they are likely to be amenable to the application of design-based approaches for the creation of solutions, which go beyond the obvious and readily visible options available to decision-makers.

Innovation in the public sphere, therefore, will necessarily involve design as a means of thinking, creative rearticulation, continuous reiteration and refinement of the grand challenges facing society.

Office Architecture That Inspires Creativity

Innovative Ad Agency Sid Lee‘s new Montreal office is designed to inspire free-thinking and creativity, with its open, mutable spaces, walls that can be scribbled on, long corridors for impromptu brainstorming sessions, and its provision of healthy breakfast and free yoga and Pilates classes!

It never ceases to amaze me how ostensibly innovative companies expect their employees to work in perfectly uninspiring digs. For all their “out-of-the-box” thinking, they still think it appropriate to stuff their creatives into office cubicles or, worse still, station them at long, sterile white desks, where all accessories are kept at right angles.

That’s not the case at the Montreal office of Sid Lee — an ad agency with clients such as Adidas, Cirque du Soleil, and Fatboy — where you’ll find a mishmash of boldly designed spaces that are reinvented every few months. The office is essentially open-plan, with as few walls and closed doors as possible for encouraging collaboration and the impromptu sharing of ideas, whether passing each other in a long hallway or sitting at the communal lunch table.

Read more: In Sid Lee’s Free-Form Office, The Walls Are For Scribbles