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X marks the spot May 11, 2010

Posted by Brian Payer in Uncategorized.
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Innovation X is another entry into the field of design for business, business by design type of books. The author is placing this entry in response to other books in the field, like Change by Design, by IDEO CEO Tim Brown. Innovation X attempts to establish thought leadership, but it is in fact following the trend. However, it still brings a different perspective to an evolving field.

Adam Richardson is a principal at frog design, and he approaches this book like a designer. He does what any good designer does – takes existing things or ideas and pieces them together, with a slight twist. Like any good consultant, Richardson contends that the world can be viewed on a 2×2 matrix. Except he twists his matrix 45 degrees, so it’s an “X” instead of a square.

The 4 components of the X framework are Immersion across from Adaption and Divergence across from Convergence. These are terms that encompass standard elements of the design process, including customer insights, idea generation, solution selection and flexibility. Richardson suggests that practitioners progress around the X framework from Immersion to Divergence to Convergence to Adaption. Basically this builds upon the process outlined in “Design as a Learning Process” from California Management Review, by Sara Beckman and Michael Barry. The paper won several awards and is frequently cited, so it makes good sense to include it in this book.

Another concept that Richardson borrows is the idea of a “wicked problem,” a term coined by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber decades ago. A wicked problem is distinguished by the fact that neither the problem nor the solution are known, making it maddeningly difficult to approach the problem and find workable solutions. Richardson tries to differentiate X Problems from wicked problems, but the distinction is not clear. He basically renames wicked problems as X Problems for the purposes of this book, but adds terms like “extreme,” “mysterious,” and “crossroads” that the original authors avoided.

Richardson encourages his readers to tackle their most challenging problems head on, noting that X Problems are rich sources of opportunity. The innovations and solutions that come from working on X Problems often lead to competitive differentiation in the market. Richardson directs readers to seek new sources of innovation, not strictly technology innovation or product design innovation. He builds on the work of Clayton Christiansen, who coined the often misused term “disruptive innovation”. And he cites Geoffrey Moore’s work from Dealing with Darwin, where Moore distinguishes a dozen types of innovation by both type and degree of innovation.

Perhaps the best and most useful insight from Innovation X is the fact that products, services, companies must be viewed as systems rather than individual components. The old view of breaking things down into component parts is insufficient to address the most complex problems and opportunities facing companies today.

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Curriculum for Business Design February 25, 2010

Posted by Brian Payer in Design Thinking, Leading Strategy Change.
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What can we do to prepare MBAs to be the leaders and managers of 2050? How would design thinking play a role in the educational process?

Many, including our class in fall 2009, have taken up this question. Our class came up with some tools, readings and projects that could add into the existing MBA curriculum. But some folks have taken the question one step further. Starting from scratch: What would a curriculum for a “Business Designer” look like?

Here is a draft of a curriculum for Business Design created by Ryan Jacoby. It’s a  series of 19 proposed “courses” complete with descriptions, units and a practicum for each course. The curriculum emphasizes the hands on nature of design, as well as some of the practical aspects of building and running a business. Some of my favorites include

BDES 111 | Entrepreneurial & Intrapraneurial Finance (FFF)

and

BDES 201 | Discovery Driven Learning (Break Things)

Sign me up for the whole program. What are your favorite classes?

Rethinking MBA pedagogy (from The Economist) September 30, 2009

Posted by Brian Payer in Design Thinking.
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How much responsibility do Business Schools bear for the financial crisis? Given that MBAs make up 40% of the workforce on Wall Street, quite a bit.

Top business schools are quick to talk about “educating leaders who make a difference in the world,” but MBA core curricula and widely accepting management techniques have not changed significantly in recent decades. Platitudes about culture and leadership are plentiful, but real change is lacking. The author in this “Economist” article goes so far as to suggest scrapping the current business school curricula and starting from scratch.

There is an open question about MBA pedagogy, and our class is exploring the issue in depth. Perhaps we should invite the author to class, or at least send a letter to the editor. I’ve always wanted to write one of those letters that starts “Dear Sir:”…

What can we recommend? Exercises in design thinking, sketching, visualization, wicked problems, ethnographic research, improv and critical thinking are a start, but the key will be infusing design thinking tools and skills into the entire MBA program. Let’s make sure that the Haas difference goes beyond mission statements to create positive change in the education of future leaders.