Innovation Inspiration : New perspectives from the Bay Area

02 May 2011|Added Value

Six weeks into my transfer from Paris to California, it felt like a good time to play back some Bay Area innovation impressions: from the latest on design thinking to an emphasis on execution, and from data visualization to emerging business models…

Design thinking: the King is Dead, Long Live….
The role of design thinking in innovation and in business more broadly is at a crucial point in its evolution. On the one hand, its role seems to go from strength to strength; on the other, it’s just been declared officially dead!

Design & the triple bottom line
Boston’s Design Management Institute is a key driver of design in business, and their journal provides quarterly insight into the role design plays in answering a range of strategic questions. In the upcoming edition, they’ve gathered together evidence from across the world for the impact of design on the triple bottom line.
Read more: World evidence on the impact of design on the triple bottom line.

The rise of “Creative Intelligence”?
Ranged against this weighty fraternity is Bruce Nussbaum, Contributing Editor to Business Week, and one of the original proponents of design thinking. Well, he now perceives it as a “failed experiment”, arguing that companies have over-systemized design thinking, without being prepared to take on the messy and experimental creativity that was the fundamental purpose behind it – and so they’ve ended up with only incremental innovation.

His new framework, “creative intelligence”, looks to re-institute raw, messy creativity. But not everyone agrees – take a look at the e-conversation that follows his piece.
Read more: Discussion on creative intelligence.

The shock of the old
Away from Nussbaum’s world of messiness, Scott Belsky – founder of Behance and the 99% – focuses on pragmatism and system.  In his book, Making Ideas Happen, he uses as his startpoint Thomas Edison’s famous quote that “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” For him, ideas are the easy part: making them happen is the bit that separates true innovators from the also-rans. And he showcases examples from companies like Google and Disney, and individuals like author Chris Anderson and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.
Take a look: The 99%.

Exploring new business models
Beyond the walls of major corporations, design continues to give rise to some of the more exciting start-ups and business models. Method Design Lab is a collaboration between Method – a San Francisco-based design company – and London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. What’s interesting is that it views itself as an “accelerator”, working with entrepreneurs and IP creators on their big ideas.
Read more: Method Accelerator.

A couple of related examples are worth mentioning. Studio G describes itself as a “dynamic, entrepreneurial community”: it provides mentoring, resource sharing and networking facilities to start-ups; and Hub Ventures is an evening program providing funding and resources to entrepreneurs – of which the lead ventures receive access to $75K seed capital at the end of the 12 weeks. Both charge a fee. 
Discover Studio G
Discover Hub Ventures.

Information is beautiful…
And lastly, some great examples of the power of data visualization. Google’s recent publication, Think Quarterly, rides on the ‘information is beautiful’ wave  with articles raging from Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, on how to counter data obesity to Vodafone’s CEO, Guy Laurence on combating data impotence (and plenty more for data geeks). As well as being a promotional vehicle for Google…
Read more: Think Quarterly.

Finally, Added Value is organising complimentary webinars. The next one will be presented by Leslie Pascaud, Director Sustainable Marketing Practice, on the ‘The Keys to Sustainable Innovation – Waste less, share more’. Join us on Monday the 23rd of May, at 16:00 (UK).
Click here to register.

Written by Jonathan Hall, Managing Director Cheskin Added Value

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