How Do You Learn To Be Innovative?

I get asked that question a lot by people and now I have a pretty good answer—go to the blog of Jon Campbell—Branding and Innovation. Campbell did some amazing work on the Harley Davidson site before deciding to go to the Illinois Institute of Design to get an MDM, Masters of Design Methods. Now he’s blogging about his experience as a student of design thinking at the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago and its really insightful.

This is what Campbell had to say on his first post—why he went back to school, why design thinking is important to corporations and how it can end world hunger (well…that’s only partly a joke.

“Many people still think of design in terms of creating logos (graphic), cars (industrial), or the good ol’ haute couture (fashion). These all fall under the broad umbrella of big D Design, but for a marketing manager at a Fortune 500 to leave to work on what many envision is a degree in making logos and pantsuits doesn’t really make sense to a lot of people. So to make sure they don’t have a mental image of me appearing on Project Runway, I inevitably fill in the pause after “That’s cool!” with a five-minute explanation of what design-centered thinking, planning and strategy is, how that leads to innovative products, services, business models, and ultimately revenue to a company, and how it’s the Future of Business, and that programs like ID are years ahead of mainstream business, fancy MBA programs and super narrowly-focused “design as a trade” schools. Not surprisingly, I often end up boring people. In fact, I might have just lost some of you readers.

Therefore, I thought I’d try my hand at writing up a brief explanation of design in the context of the program I’m attending. A quick way to get the gist across when I tell someone what I’m currently up to. Here it goes:

Design is a strategic way of thinking that places the user at the center of all decisions, using an iterative approach to deliver on unmet needs that creates real value for users and thereby for the organization. Does that work? Is it too light on conveying the power of design? Is it too vague? What do you think?

In future posts I’ll start digging into why design thinking is only going to get bigger, how it will be key to any company’s future success, how it can solve world hunger (I put that in to be a smart ass but, in fact, it holds the potential to solve problems of that scale), etc. And I’ll throw out my two cents on why I believe this is a more valuable degree going forward than an MBA for many people currently looking at going to grad school.”

And his first insights from taking classes at ID are here:

He had Marc Gobe as a presenter over lunch talking about emotional branding. This is what Gobe said:

“Emotional branding is about moving from commodity to experience. Brands can create growth and relevance with consumers. Market share to mindshare.”

Jon said Gobe “provided a few examples of brands that are commodities and brands that have moved that commodity category into experience and emotion. These included Ivory soap vs. Bath & BodyWorks and Folgers vs. Starbucks.”

Then Jon came up with his own list of Old industries vs New innovators.

Corner coffee shops / Starbucks FM radio / Sirius satellite radio Compact discs / Apple iTunes and iPod Ringling Bros. / Cirque du Soleil American Airlines / JetBlue Macy’s / Target Hoover / Dyson Palmolive / Method GMC Envoy / Toyota Prius Safeway / Whole Foods Blockbuster / Netflix Visa / PayPal Allstate / Progressive H&R Block / TurboTax


Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.