Why Stop at Innovation?

Not to pick a fight, or maybe to pick a fight, why is the focus narrowed to innovation? I am a big fan of Michael Treacy, former MIT Sloan School of Management professor. To paraphrase; he maintains that business has three core offerings for the customer - customer intimacy, operational ingenuity and product innovation. Customer intimacy is creating a close relationship, to “care” about the customer. Operational ingenuity is having an edge in the process of your business and usually can offer products at a lower cost. Product innovation is obvious. He also states (with a lot of research to back it up) to be a market leader a company must dominate one offering and be at least industry standards in the other two. Examples of this would be how Apple positions itself squarely with product innovation with Think Different, Volvo for Life (positioning itself as the safest car) is customer intimacy and Wal-Mart’s Always Low Prices takes advantage of their operational ingenuity.

Maybe you/we need to define innovation, as difficult as that may be. I would start the discussion by saying innovation as well as design could be utilized in all three catagories. My goal is to expand the discussion of design to all areas of business, not just the “coolest” chotchsky of the day. I am looking forward to discussions of strategy and I hope this forum will lead the way.

Remember the famous quote “I shall not today attempt further to define [hardcore pornography] …But I know it when I see it”…? I think we needed to pick a starting point for this group in terms of defining what was an appropriate and interesting new area. We threw around the word “business” since there’s this convergence thing happening. But talking about “business” and “design” starts to feel like we were suggesting that the operation of a design business was in the same conversation, and it isn’t, it’s an important, related, but separate conversation.

I think if we had labelled this with business, we might have had you on-side a bit more? The three core offerings would be more explicitly supported?

But anyway, I don’t think it’s a fight, I think your post is fantastic because you are helping to define the terms and topics for this board. I think you are right on in challenging it. I think innovation can cut across all of those, and maybe for Core77 regulars they are going to start with design as the first area. But I think you nailed it.

Let’s indeed think about design in terms of all aspects of business, and I don’t think we want to be dealing with the coolest gizmo in this board.

Nicely done.

awww, but the Pebl is so cute :slight_smile: Alright, I’ll behave.

business people invent terms to to make it stick or become relevant. innovation is one of them. i think when a businessman talks about innovation it could be anything that brings profit. on the other hand when designers talk about innovation they’re basically talking about something that involves a new design.
two different things.

See you use it the same way business men do…

New Design = obsolescents of old designs = more sales = more $$$$

Funny how that works huh!

Business allways follows innovation, as innovation without buisness is pointless. Because without a buisness or charity (non profit business model) the innovation will never be seen or realized.

Innovations also spark new designs. For instance a new technology is invented say personal levitation. This then leads to the company who developed the technology to invest in the development of a new product to incorporate this technology. So what is innovative the design or the technology? The technology is for sure. The design could be, but in most cases the design is simply a skin job on a products first release.

If a designer only sees innovation as a design term discribing new designs, then they are not seeing the full realm of the world and market that we need to be focused on. Afterall it is our secondary job is to create pretty objects, or primary job (if we want repeat clients) is to make money for our clients. Without clients there is no Design Innovations, or Designers, only inventors strugling to make ends meat.

Pardon the confusion, but to reply to the original post… what is beyond innovation? I’m not saying its the end-all-be-all but your mention of Michael Treacy doesn’t confirm or contradict innovation. I too have used the triplets mentioned to help direct the strategic positioning for a company, but I wouldn’t have said I was innovating per se when I did that.

I don’t come from the ID background, but a definition of innovation simply as “new design” seems unnecessary. Just say its a new design. To use innovation, at the least, I think you should add a qualifier that the design was commercially successful, of value to its producer and to users. An oft used example is the Segway - certainly a new design, an invention even. But it has drastically underperformed per the initial speculation. It hasn’t been the revolution it was expected to be. Interesting sure. But, recently its use among security staff and policeman has been interesting, even innovative. Its allowing this group to patrol greater ground in a non-threatening manner without tiring out the user.

The term in a business context is more relevant, as mentioned above. Putting dollar signs beside it. But as such there are ways to think about innovation that make it less nebulous, less of a buzzword. Doblin has a tool that states there are 10 types of innovation and only one is the traditional “new design”. Take Dell, what’s innovative about their products, well not so much really. But their channel strategy, heck ya! Going direct via phone and web was something really new - and successful. There are also innovations in business models, brand expressions, and service offerings, among others. Each though transforms the way something was previously done to bring new economic (and user) value.

Sometimes innovation is different from “New Model to replace the old model”

The designer needs to be aware of that difference. Usually because of changing model years there is a need to change the shape and features of a design and the end item still does the same thing it did before.

To have innovation and really take it to the full definition of the word innovation, it should not be included as a descriptor for a new product that does the same thing as the old product that it replaces.

I agree with what you are saying. My point to the original post is that IDers can be quite myopic about innovation. The young ones (who are on this board the most) think innovation can only apply to the product itself and the other nine types of innovation don’t matter. I think IDers need to participate in those other nine types of innovation to in order to lead in the role as innovator in the business setting. I want them think of other areas of business to innovate before they rub one off to the Dyson vacuum.

As for Dell, I think it is a great example of operational ingenuity. They came a small beginning to leapfrog and crush both IBM and Apple. Be careful though, ufo may rip you a new one for even thinking Dell is innovative.

Its not business people vs designer for me.
And i don’t think innovation in a product means commercial success. A wonderful product can be unsuccessful because of the way it is introduced. It’s a question of mindset the said inventors who struggle to make ends meet it’s because they don’t get the other components of the system. Power lies in creating something valuable and knowing the channels to deliver it. Good reason to have a more Holistic approach.
And in the time we live even more, because its so easy to communicate ideas.

I wouldn’t say Innovation without business is pointless, or that there is no design innovation without clients. Making money is important, because it indicates the effect your idea has and how many people adopt, benefit from it, but A PD designer primary job in my vocabulary isn’t to make money for a client. You create value, then the money follows, and you make a real contribution.

But there are many types of designers.
… So I’d rather say my job is to create value for the end user, in people lives.

Someone used the expression, a design can be a skin job on a innovative product first release.
The application of the new technology to create a product IS the new design in this case.
Design isn’t only the “skin”. Its outstanding when both things are really so well thought you can say the product more than skin has a Soul.
Left Brain, Right Brain.

Part of my view is because I don’t only want to design for a market, I’d like for my work to cause a change in society structure, in the way people think, even in the way people consume, that doesn’t necessarily mean buying more stuff.

One of the problems with focusing on operational ingenuity is that the results can be studied (and will be published in endless case studies) and learned, and therefore repeated. The example of Dell was given, and they were able to create profound operational ingenuity, but not long after their supply chain was copied, and so they have since lost their edge in the marketplace, because they were at about the industry standard in the other two areas, maybe below.

Product innovation seems like it is the hardest to copy, due to intellectual property laws. Customer intimacy, I feel, is not only a unique entity that needs to be nurtured, but a byproduct of both operational ingenuity and product innovation.

So what if in order to have Customer intimacy, you need to be exceptional at operational ingenuity, and product innovation?

While I agree with what you are saying carton, again I will go back to my OP in that you can have innovation in any area. Yes Dell got copied but other areas of operational ingenuity can be innovative and can have IP protection. Manufacturing processes are routinely patented, this week Abbott labs just lost a $1.6B lawsuit to J&J for using J&J’s manufacturing process to make Humira.

As for customer intimacy, the majority of IP is through trade and service marks. I am at a loss to think of a patent related to CI. But I don’t think you must have product innovation and operational ingenuity to have CI. Look at Volvo. Mercedes routinely was rated as a safer car so Volvo couldn’t be considered more innovative with any safety feature. Volvo is not cheap and their dealerships weren’t that special, I don’t think there is much OI going on there. But their marketing was always geared for safety, “Volvo For Life”. Building the relationship with their customer on features found elsewhere and at a premium cost. They pushed CI without much PI or OI and did it sucessfully years ago.

I was considering advances in manufacturing process, like apples latest advances with the all aluminum laptop cases, more in the rhelm of product innovation, but I can see how you would apply that to the organizational ingenuity. I think I am influenced in this direction because a book I have recently read, Do you matter, how great design will make people love your company, classifies it in this manner.

Read Steve Diller’s book, Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences about the customer intimacy, he outlines 25 (or so) ways you can develop a connection with a customer.

Also, I didn’t say you had to have the other two to create CI, but that they help it to grow. Good products have been designed to foster CI along with other methods. Also, the organizational ingenuity, i.e. supply chains and dealer networks, also foster customer intimacy. But there are many levels of CI and ways to create or destroy it.

Thanks for the tip on the book, and under $20, a bonus.

FWIW, I use OI as operational ingenuity, not organizational ingenuity so it can include manufacturing processes and lean strategies on top of sales and distribution.

Can you stop at innovation? I think innovation and the design process are nothing more than holistic problem solving that can be universally applied.

Often people think that innovation = invention

In my experience, any insight about how people perceive, use, and experience products leads to change that is innovative by definition of the word. it’s new, it’s a change.

Sometimes insights lead to small changes, sometimes they lead you down an entirely new path. Anything that leads to your ultimate goal, success for your product (financial, award, notariety, social change, etc) is a good thing.

I try to focus on insights, specifically consumer and retailer insights. that keeps your eye on the problems you’re trying to solve rather than worrying about the solution’s grandeur, and whether it’s “innovative” enough.