It’s the people, silly.

by colbert | April 27, 2011

I spoke at a Harvard event on Saturday, the topic “Innovation”.  The speaker before me was Jon Campbell, the chief strategist at Design Continuum, one of the hotter product design shops in the country.    So here’s just some of what Jon had to say about their views on innovation and how to innovate best:

– they don’t subscribe to process as a means to innovate
– with that said, they have a five-step process:  alignment, discovery, analysis, envision and evaluation, deployment.  Smells a bit like Sync, our non-process process.
– as Chief Strategist Jon believes there are four keys to effective innovation:
– an approach (not to be confused with a process)
– an environment
– tools
– people
– And that people are the key of the keys.  Diversity of backgrounds, ages, strengths.  They gather in dedicated project rooms for days and weeks on end, with white board walls and lots of markers.  Two requisite abilities of an innovator:  empathy and being non-judgmental.  I could work on the latter…
– because the nature of innovation is necessarily subjective they don’t put a lot of emphasis on quantitative anything (phew).
– they always build prototypes to help the client understand what the hell they’re talking about…
– and finally they believe the economy has moved from Innovation as Process (Henry Ford) to Innovation as Information to Innovation as Connection.  Not a particularly profound view but certainly supports the importance of collaboration and transparency to create anything.   Most of Jon’s points were right on, particularly the people part and the need for empathy, being non-judgmental, and working hard to work together.  Easily declared, not easily done.

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