Product & Service Innovation

This morning was spent with Professor Tom Inns, the Director of Designing for the 21st Century initiative. Tom runs our module entitled “Design Led Product & Service Innovation”, which we share with the Design Ethnography course.

He offered us some interesting definitions of innovation:

“The process of translating new ideas into tangible societal impact.” Krisztina Holly

Our morning began with a little task, the masters of design students were asked to write their definition of design – the ethnographers were asked to write their definition of ethnography.

It is an understatement to say that design, as a word/subject, is very difficult to define. Here is a picture of my contribution :

My classmate Fiona’s description – clear and concise:

It was interesting to see everyone’s point of view. I also find it interesting that a group of individuals who all have some experience in the field of design – myself in particular having studied Product Design for four years- still find this question extremely uncomfortable!!

The ethnographers definitions were also thought provoking:

I understand ethnography to be the observation, understanding and translation of the human condition.

Tom then asked the room some questions which I am still thinking about – When does a designer need an ethnographer? When does the job of an ethnographer stop? When would I use an ethnographer?

At the moment, I find it hard to envision a situation when I would feel I had to hire an ethnographer! That is of course, at the stage in my career I am at now!  I am not sure if this is the right way to be thinking…I feel I have good experience in ethnography, I practised it a lot during my time in Amsterdam and have read books about the subject…I am confident in myself that I am a fairly talented observer.

I’m sure many more intriguing questions are going to form as these two programs continue to run in parallel.

We spent some time discussing ‘innovation failures’. Tom pictured below demonstrating why the Sinclair 5 was so unsuccessful!

I learned that the word design comes from the Italian word ‘disengare’! I also liked they way Tom advised me to use this time on the Masters as an ‘experimental space for me to re-direct myself’.