Kate Rutter: That’s heady stuff. Can you give me an example of some of these things? For example, what does a design-led innovation process look like?
Nathan Shedroff: Most attempts at innovation in companies haven’t been terribly successful for a variety of reasons. They may not involve the right people in the organization, have a culture of creating new things from scratch, or they may not value ideas when they are presented. Sometimes, it’s all about courage to do something different. Design processes, specifically, approach the challenge to imagine and devise new solutions, in any context, by looking at customers in meaningful ways, integrating data from a variety of sources, and using it as a starting point instead of an ending point. Design respects different kinds of prototyping and iteration, which is an important part of the process. Expectations in design processes are different from how most organizations expect every idea to be incredible, try to control the process from the top down, or inject corporate assumptions that are often not validated or reflect the market.
Different organizations have different innovation cultures but, no matter the approach taken, it is organic and dynamic and most forms of management tend to kill the process rather than nurture it. This is why organizations often have to rely on acquisitions or consultants from the outside to innovate or find the need to comfortably insulate their designers in a different area, under different management and expectations, just like they often do with R&D. This isn’t always the best approach, however, since it tends to isolate as much as insulate.
[…] Kate: Before integrated academic programs like this, how and where did people gain these skills? What were the critical gaps in knowledge? What change is at play in the business world to create a need for the approach that you teach?
[…] Nathan: To truly understand these domains — and to gain the experience and comfort necessary to lead through these perspectives, you need all of your courses to integrate and to work with them holistically. This is our approach. All of our courses, including Accounting, Business Models and Stakeholders, Finance, Operations, etc. integrate both a design/innovation and sustainability perspective. They aren’t treated as foreign or related but crucially integrated.