Monday, September 5, 2011

Recipes for Innovation

So here's a funny story. Trish Hudson of the Melos Institute sent me an email a few days ago.

Reason for writing - is I was at San Fran's Museum of Modern Art yesterday - saw something that made me think of you.

Dieter Ram is an industrial designer - did a lot of work with Braun in Germany. He has designed some very innovative tools...and created innovative designs for traditional tools. SFMOMA had an exhibit of his designs. On one wall -they shared his princples of good design...thought there might be some relevance to your interest in innovation...

So - here goes. Possible opportunities for adaptation to association management, maybe?

Dieter Ram's 10 Principles of Good Design

1. good design is innovative.
2. good design makes a product useful.
3. good design is asthetic.
4. good design makes a product understandable.
5. good design is honest.
6. good design is unobtrusive.
7. good design is long-lasting.
8. good design is thorough down to the last detail.
9. good design is environmentally friendly.
10. good design is as little design as possible (back to simplicity).

I wrote back and told Trish how odd it was that she should email me this, because just a few days before I had read a post of one of frog's blogs about the work of Dieter Ram, and how it had inspired me to prepare a post for Hourglass on its similarities to innovation in the association (and other) worlds. The frog post talks about Ram's collaborations with Braun and Apple, and highlights the following attributes as pivotal to their successes:

1. Close collaboration of designers and engineers, and deep involvement by designers in working with materials and manufacturing processes.

2. Supportive executives that made design integral to the way the company operated (Steve Jobs for Apple, and Erwin and Artur - the sons of founder Max Braun. And to their credit, when Gillette acquired Braun in 1963, they recognized the value of Braun's design team and gave it free reign.)

3. Obsessive attention to detail, supported by relatively long gestation cycles and an iterative, prototype-driven process.

4. A small, stable team (Apple's ID team is famously tight-knit, and the core of Braun's design team was largely unchanged for a quarter century during its golden age of output).

As far a recipes for innovation go, I prefer this shorter list than the one Trish sent over (although I remain jealous of her proximity to SFMOMA--one of my most favorite places in the world). Close collaboration of people with different perspectives, executives supportive of experimentation, obsessive attention to detail coupled with an iterative prototyping process, and small, stable teams who know their jobs and who they're innovating for--these are all themes that we've outlined in the WSAE white paper on innovation and which have been subjects of discussion on this blog.

"Funny how people and ideas are connected, isn’t it?" I wrote back to Trish and she replied:

Dare I get freaky in saying that there's a bigger force out there that connects like-minded folks at pivotal times in ways that defies description?

And when we listen intuitively and act accordingly - we have the opportunity to experience something that goes way beyond the intellectual realm....and often when we are able to blend intellectual and intuitive - we find innovation?

Blending the intellectual with the intuitive. Be sure to add a pinch of that to your innovation recipe.

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