Monday, July 10, 2006

MBA elective weeks 8 + 9: icons, standards, quality and failure

We were joined for our final class at Oxford by a guest speaker, Mat Hunter who works at IDEO's London office, who I asked to talk about failure. A video of this presentation will be available soon. Mat's presentation provided a frank and critical account of this world-leading design consultancy with analysis and anecdotes of Mat's favourite failures. He presented a framework for understanding design created by one of their clients, Claudia Kotchka, P&G's VP for design innovation, which distinguishes between different ways that design works: no conscious design; design as styling; design as form and function; design as problem-solving; and design as framing. IDEO currently presents itself as a company grounded in design which can help clients answer the question, "What's the future for my company?" IDEO's well-known phrase 'fail often to succeed more' based on design thinking was, Mat argued, a way to achieve disruptive innovation - currently considered essential to generate growth.

There was one more class in the elective, rescheduled from an earlier date due to the illness of the guest speaker, Chris Downs, managing partner of a service design and innovation company called live|work, based in London, Newcastle and New York. Since we were not able to re-arranged a date with Chris, the class voted to go to London once more to see the graduation show at the Royal College of Art, London, with work by MA students, including Design Products and Interaction Design students whom we had worked with a few weeks earlier. Having toured the exhibition which also included work by students from other design practices, we sat in Hyde Park and discussed the themes that emerged from both the exhibition, the work presented in it, and again design and its relation to innovation and entrepreneurship. The MBAs also reflected on how they might try to bring some of the practices they had been exposed to into their future careers; and the extent to which organizations of different kinds enact design leadership, whether design as strategy, design as process or design as visual differentiation.

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