Design Light Not Lamps

A well-designed building, a well-engineered car or a beautifully configured interior can stimulate the centers of our brains…

The October WIRED UK Edition is called The Design Issue featuring Olafur Eliasson, the multi-award-winning artist…"Art will change the world" he said. Among many other projects, he runs a studio in Berlin with a wide array of lighting used as "tools" for producing certain psychological effects…

I recall, about eleven years ago, I reviewed an innovation project for theEuropean Commission that dealt with design - the project manager, a design professor of the Politecnico di Milano, explained the objective metaphorical: design light not lamps. The project was about principles and methodologies to achieve design-oriented innovation.

In quant innovation this meant: design usages first, then objects,  models, solvers, functions, data…difficult enough, because in complex systems a bottom up approach is the only way to get the required flexibility…

Eliasson's tool box of light bulbs, neon tubes…in Berlin enable this the bottom up fashion. The analogy in quant innovation was a technology stack.

So, you're lucky if you have design methodologies for certain usages and a well designed technology stack providing the tools.

Again, it's worth working more with artists…they can really co-produce answers.

Work More With Artists

Innovators do lab work…searching for a breakthrough, new ways to design, produce, manage, market.... The factory, strives for rationalization…do things of yesterday better, faster and cheaper today. It's difficult to do factory and lab work simultaneously. Factory work often rules out innovation.

But, as an innovator and innovation advisor I wasn't completely resistant fighting uncertainty by rationalization...make more with less.

For many years now, I co-operate with Hermann Fuchs. He, a macro-economist by education, runs a financial controlling advisory firm. His core competency embraces real options…but he's also doing picture carving arts: see Sehfelder

I'm not an artist. But I believe that creativity is a skill that can be learned to some extent. And I believe thinking like artists help us to be innovative and come up with new ideas.

Is there something, like an artists tool kit? Maybe. But more important, they
  • take risk
  • work under uncertainty
  • deal with imperfection
  • deal with critics
  • develop a space where they fill their creations in
Beside the project work Hermann and I meet quite frequently to just shake things up without being bound to concrete projects...  

Don't Do It Alone

If I you force me to put all my experiences into one controlling idea…a few word recommendation for innovators…drumroll... Don't do it alone.

Remember, you want to make systems that matter for those who care.

Don't develop alone

In an agile development cycle you should cooperate to master the complexity of a multi-strategy, multi-model and multi-method system that is inherently parallel, multi-language and platform agnostic…We never had better environments, platforms and tools to manage development by dislocated teams (of different disciplines and skills).

Don't market alone

You want to change. That needs early connections and alliances.  This goes far beyond co-operation in agile development cycles. Find system integrators, re-marketers and other recognized voices who speak for your project in early stages of your development.

When you innovate you choose yourself…and if you're connected, people need you. It's so simple, but it took me years and many disappointments to understand it: Don't Do it alone.

Is It Worth Doing It?

Disruption from new market regimes, the contextual age propagation, the wide access to powerful bottom-up tools…may force innovators to reinvent development and marketing. Even solitaire quant innovations aren't speaking on their own any more.

Marketing is about telling great stories, better development is about telling better stories to ourselves and our innovations ARE stories…

At the beginning it's only you and your ideas...

Hundred thousand hours

It's always the same dilemma: although you have access to great development and deployment tools, market analysis material…are you good enough (financially strong enough) to make use of the opportunity? No, we don't fear the work, we need to face criticism and failure…and stuff like that.

There're constraints. Knowing that your innovation will finally take 100.000 hours you need to deliver a multimillion-Euro-revenue thing.

What helps is making your innovation minimal viable for a minimum viable audience first…a release 1.0 with the highest return at risk…a smaller thing that has a big effect...that sets the stage for the multimillion thing.

Developing without context

There're this people who do everything right with seemingly low effort. How poor must I feel to be forced to make all that analysis, seeking optionality and choosing evolutionary approaches?

You need to build a core of your work…and if you haven't built quant innovations before, and you aren't sure, whether you belong to the rare no-wrong-doers, you might think of developing a technology stack first…technology that isn't devoted to a context at first place.

Borrowing ideas

It's not where you take things from - it's where you take things to, Jean Luc Goddard. What does "borrowing" mean in a framework of complex multidimensional interaction patterns.

A few years ago, The European Commission launched a task force: Open Innovation…it's about an innovation-building culture emphasizing on in-licensing and out-licensing…create seamless interaction and mash-up for ideas…

But this is institutionalized...the same unspoken principle has been established online…

Don't Do It Alone

If you want to change, you need connections and alliances in early stages. This goes far beyond the agile development cycles.

At this time you need to have the big controlling idea that describes how the innovation meets the desires, objectives, requirements…From the controlling ideas we derive our key messages. If we understand them we can put the big takeaway into a few words.

If you promote them, you may find people reference them in their promotions…they're potential development, integration or re-marketing partners…or even the first featured clients.

Find Multipliers

Select partners forming a long lasting bond. How to select them?

On purpose: innovators often serve for the benefit of integrators who serve for the benefit of special market segments….you possibly know that you'll not reach that market segments easily on your own?

Obvious: you may know people or institutions that are recognized voices in your technology corner, selected industrial circles...You want them to be a neutral instance for creating awareness for your innovation.

Don't forget, this points are for early stages…they help you to optimize market risk by understanding the stressors, optionality…

Understanding opportunity 

After you've decided to make the whole thing, the question becomes how to make it interesting for a wider audience. You still want to focus-->stretch-->expand, but you know it's worthy of more than a niche product. But will others feel the same way about it?

Survey the whole landscape for your idea and your innovation. Check how good they match…
Create a map that outlines the ideas others have had similar to yours…is anybody else planning to make it a multimillion thing?

The Big Idea innovation

Are the users of the innovation excited about the subject matter or how-to build complex things or workflows solving progressive problems, simulating a real behavior…?

Big Idea innovations do usually combine the research,  how-to and workflow type all serving to create an integrated experience. It's typically a story and a thriller if it's quantitative…

Right to walk it through The Innovation Mesh.

Will it work and sell according to your expectations, within the constraints, mining most of the opportunities…paying back?