Dennis Chan, Maggie de la Vega, Jo Glenny, and Tucker Kobylski – PRATT
Designing Innovation Diffusion
Team initiated for our Pratt Design Management Masters Thesis
Designing Innovation Diffusion
Innovation is recognized as a critical factor required to succeed and sustain a competitive advantage. A research study was initiated to identify the challenges and best practices of organizations that continuously diffuse innovation throughout organizations. Research data was collected, analyzed, and used to design a seven phase diffusion approach.
Pratt Design Management Masters Thesis Dennis Chan, Maggie de la Vega, Jo Glenny, and Tucker Kobylski
The jury judged positively the very rational and considered approach and found the project well communicated and easy to understand. Great visuals.
Designing Innovation Diffusion
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
A recent Accenture survey found that two-thirds of the CEO’s surveyed recognized innovation as one of the five most critical factors required to succeed and to sustain a competitive advantage (Kambil, 2002). However, despite claims that innovation is a key priority, diffusing it within an organization proves to be a difficult challenge for many. Most companies are able to actualize less than one in five promising ideas, and only one in eight executives feel strongly that their companies excel at implementing innovation (Kambil, 2002)
Our team posed a research study that 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. With this in mind we created a thesis to base our research: This thesis is designed to test the hypothesis that an organization’s sustainable advantage is dependent upon employing a design approach to facilitate the diffusion of innovation. This thesis analyzes the barriers and best practices of innovation diffusion in four categories: structure, environment, communication, and process. We also analyzed the value created from design processes, and explored how to transfer components of the design process to facilitate diffusion of innovation in organizations.
What got us excited about this project was that we all had a common interest in innovation and in the value design processes can bring to problem solving. We also recognized an opportunity to better understand the barriers to innovation and how to overcome them.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
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 also served as a foundation to the 7-phase approach proposed. As designers, we also felt as though we were able to bring a holistic, multi-faceted 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 to facilitate the diffusion of innovation.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
The framework was designed as an adaptable approach to be used in a wide range of organizations, from non-profits, small business, to Fortune 500 companies, across a myriad of specialties (manufacturing, transportation, education, and tech). Therefore, the research study focused on both secondary and primary sources of information, while targeting the insights of professionals within organizations in the industries of product and service innovation. This took us to corporations and consultancies to better understand the barriers and best practices of these organizations. The consultancies focused on the areas of: architecture, digital interaction, infrastructure, innovation, and product development. The corporations were in the following industries: consumer health, global restaurant chain, transportation, and web development.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
Through our primary research, we uncovered best practices and barriers to innovation diffusion.
We defined our target interviewees as design managers within organizations who were able to diffuse innovation throughout their organization and consistently bring innovations to market. Interviewees were also initially targeted by their proximity to the researchers, so interviews could be conducted in person and in situ. A customized questionnaire was then created for these professionals, focused on their role within the organization, processes and barriers, and metrics and measures. We developed a visual process to distill the information, represented through a graphic in Appendix C (pg. 67) of the included document.
Secondary research was used as an information gathering process to collect data related to the diffusion of innovation in these areas: structure, environment, communication, process, and additional insights. These areas were targeted in secondary sources due to their relation to the role of design within organizations, availability of professional knowledge bases, and experiences related to the diffusion of innovation. Sources consisted of scholarly journals, professional trade magazines, books and authoritative articles. These sources were selected based on the author’s professional experience, perspective, credibility, reputation, and the quality of the content and insights. The publications and articles specifically chosen focused on the topics of design management, design processes, business strategy, innovation within organizations, and innovation diffusion.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Innovation is critical for an organization’s future sustainability in the 21st century. Given the pressing needs of today’s global economy, organizations will be faced with the need to change internal processes, products and services. Issues such as population growth, climate change, resource scarcity, an impending water crisis, and the rapid rate of evolving technology require massive shifts in business operations and offerings. All of these issues require innovation. Our research and new diffusion approach directly reinforces this and facilitates the successful implementation of innovation initiatives seeking to make the world we live in a better place. This thesis also highlights the value created from design processes, and it explores how to transfer components of the design process to facilitate diffusion of innovation in organizations. We wanted to showcase the power of design in a context that addresses strategic priorities of organizations.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
If we could have done one thing different it would have been the ability to perform primary research on a more diverse spectrum of businesses/organization to allow for a more widened base of knowledge. This would have helped to assure us that the approach would fit into a wider variety of industries and organizations.
We would still like to take this further in the future, by eliciting further feedback from the interviewees on the final approach we designed. We would also like to create a physical Seven Phase Diffusion Approach guide that is interactive and could be used in an experiential way.