Congratulations are in order for Pratt Design Management graduates Dennis Chan, Maggie de la Vega, Jo Glenny, and Tucker Kobylski who won a 2011 Core 77 Design Award in the Strategy/Research category for their thesis paper, “Designing Innovation Diffusion”.
The team’s thesis paper postulates “it is not an inability to generate ideas that typically prevents innovation, and therefore strategic advantage, but rather the inability to successfully diffuse new ideas throughout an organization.” Identifying the challenges and best practices across various industries, they analyzed their findings to design the framework for a 7-phase diffusion approach which can be adapted and used in wide range of organizations: from small business to non-profit, across a many specialties.
Like all great design, the seven-step process that the team developed for diffusing innovation seems obvious now that they’ve written it– and entirely actionable. CatalystSDR goes behind the scenes with the award winning team to get a deeper look into their process.
CatalystSDR: What point of view did you bring to this challenge?
Team response: Because we are a team of designers, we feel that we bring a unique perspective to the question at hand, in that we employed the 4D process (define, discover, design, deliver) in developing the approach. Not only did we utilize the 4Ds throughout the thesis process, but they served as a foundation to the proposed 7-phase approach. As designers, we also felt as though we were able to bring a holistic, multifaceted approach to the challenge due to our personal backgrounds in different sectors (industrial design, graphic design, and architecture). We strove to create a model for organizations to use in order to facilitate the diffusion of innovation.
Maggie: There is so much talk of how to create innovative ideas and not enough focus on how to actually implement them from a management standpoint. This led us to study the implementation of change in organizations.
Dennis: We were able to bring a multidisciplinary, multifaceted point of the view to the challenge based on our own careers and educational backgrounds. Each of us came from a different sector in the creative industry but we were able to collectively gather and translate information through our perspectives into one solid body of work. We were able to understand the corporate culture vs. the boutique firm, and build upon synergies that we thought organizations could learn and adopt.
CatalystSDR: What’s one piece of advice you would give to a business owner who is trying to innovate within their own company?
Jo: Good ideas come from a variety of sources, so listen to your employees who are doing the work. Filter the ideas according to the goals of the business, and make sure your innovations are designed to work.
Maggie: Budget for it! Budget for experimentation; this should consider potential successes as well as failures.
Dennis: Create a culture that believes in innovation. All employees should believe in it even if they don’t think they can add to the innovation bucket. As long as the culture enables innovation growth, people will catch on.
Tucker: It is paramount that innovation has a high-level advocate promoting and shaping the organizational culture around it. Innovation will have its highs and lows (it is the nature of experimentation) but the right advocate will be a champion for the design process and the diffusion of innovation throughout.
CatalystSDR: How has this experience influenced your professional career?
Jo: Understanding the need for innovation in a constantly changing business environment led me to a career change. I shifted from a not-for-profit environment to a for-profit business where innovation and design are crucial to the success of the business.
Dennis: It continually influences my career as I’m faced with constantly trying to win over executives of the company to consider new ideas – very difficult in a company that is over 30 years old.
Tucker: It has been eye opening how design processes can be applied to a variety of different types of problems outside the physical space of industrial design. This presents a myriad of opportunities for problem solving, exploration, and new designed experiences.
CatalystSDR: What was the most memorable ‘a-ha’ moment you experienced while doing this work/research?
Jo: The ‘a-ha’ moment, for me, came late one night when we were working in the museum and we were all dead-tired. That evening, we had tasked ourselves with identifying patterns in the data from our interviews. We had been struggling with structuring unstructured data. After rounds and rounds of trial and error, patterns began to emerge in the chaos and I realized we were actually on to something very special. From the chaos came a working model for applying innovation though design. I remember thinking that we were on to something truly innovative.