Sunday, November 21, 2010

Web Site [semi]-Launch

I will be posting from now on on my new web site, Please go there to stay in touch with my and my students' activities, thanks!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Engines of Innovation

Just listened to this Podcast of a conversation between Brian Eno and Steven Johnson, roughly organized around Johnson's book, The Invention of Air, but talking about environments that support innovation, how ideas can be made, and what conditions are in place when this happens. Very interesting.

Eno and Johnson talk about how Londoners went from drinking wine and beer all day to drinking coffee and tea in the 1760s, and the explosion of coffee houses that provided gathering places for intellectual discussion. They pose the question of whether this fueled the innovations of the Enlightenment - hubs where different disciplines connect combined with an atmosphere of amateurism being characteristic of environments that foster innovation. Johnson compares this open sharing of ideas and cross-disciplinary exploration to the atmosphere in the Silicon Valley. Eno talks about the period in the 60s in England when art schools were where the interesting music was being made - the idea of crossing disciplinary boundaries being essential for creativity - comparing that to the early days of Silicon Valley, when folks coming from a wide variety of disciplines had a hand in creating the personal computer. The idea of randomness being important to innovation, and that when you have experts from only one field involved, that essential randomness is eliminated.

He also discusses platforms that inspire creativity, comparing the 45 rpm record to iPhone apps. Rock music being very easy to play, combined with the 45 rpm record being easy to record and distribute, plus a thirsty dissemination medium, radio, always looking for something new to play. Johnson and Eno compare this to the current open platform web environment, and especially the iPhone app platform.

Well worth a listen.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Art Center Futures

brought to you by Livescribe

Last night Art Center College of Design's new president, Lorne Buchman, started a conversation within our community about future directions with a few guests from outside the college. This is a Livescribe recording of the panel discussion, delivered to a packed house of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Panelists were Katherine Hayles, David Rice, Stephen Oliver, and Andrew Blauvelt.

The discussion was webcast, but I'm not sure they saved it in a form that is still accessible, so I'm posting the session here for those who are interested. For those of you unfamiliar with Livescribe recordings, the audio is linked to the written notes, and you can click anywhere on the notes to hear what was being said at that time. It's a useful way to record a session as long as this one, because you can skip around.

Today we will have a day-long brainstorm on a number of topics: students & student life (life?! what life!! you mean there's life outside of Art Center??!! ;-)), curriculum & pedagogy, outside partnerships, governance & community (promises to be a hot topic, given the excitement of the past couple of years), and future trends & global context. If I have time (we start the term next Monday) I'll report on that as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Design Thinking

Dev Patnaik's recent post at Fast about reinventing the MBA caught my eye this morning. In an interview of Roger Martin, of the Rotman School of Management, they discuss the idea of bringing Design Thinking into the mix of what a business degree should include. The discussion is an excellent one, and if you don't have the time to listen to it in the video, at least read Dev's summary at the Fast Company site.

This idea, Design Thinking (which I define as the sort of creative problem solving / lateral thinking / & so forth taught in many—but most definitely not all— design schools), looks like the new darling of the business press, and I welcome that. The more we can integrate this sort of thinking into all of our problem-solving processes, the better off we will be. But when I reflect on what's missing in today's business management, I see another, perhaps more important omission.

I think we're long overdue for a renaissance of the ideas of Peter Drucker. On my drive home yesterday I caught the public radio program, Marketplace, and heard Kai Ryssdal's interview of Harvard Business School's Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who has written an article about the continuing relevance of Drucker's ideas in this month's Harvard Business Review.

This week we are celebrating (along with the 103rd birthday of Eva Zeisel, of course) the 100th anniversary of Drucker's birth. Most will know about Drucker, who was considered the father of business management. I found this short interview an excellent review of Drucker's ideas, some of which we are in sore need of today:

As Kanter says, "First was the importance of a company having a sense of mission or a purpose, and that's not identical with its strategy, it's not identical with its business model, it's why it exists and what social good or greater good that it's serving." Most important, he did not hold that management should concern itself solely with serving shareholder needs: " He talked about all the responsibilities of management, so shareholders were certainly one for businesses but also employees, customers, suppliers, and society in general.

Ryssdal: what Drucker would say about "the context that a lot of businesses find themselves in today of really having to cut their costs and get their share price up, maximize their profitability?"

Kanter: "Peter was a very big believer in management by objectives. know what your goals are and then you organize to get those goals met, which means to that you do have operate efficiently. But it also means that you don't sacrifice the long term for the short term. So ever since he started writing about high CEO compensation in the 1980s, he said that companies were often not fair. They often did have resources, but they were concentrated at the top. And that letting the shareholders, but also executives, walk away with the lion's share of the profits rather than reinvesting them, that would not create a productive future for business."

So my question is, who is enacting Drucker's ideas today?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Project Infusion, Miami

I'm back from the IDSA National Conference, Project Infusion, in Miami, and will post my impressions of some of the more interesting sessions in the next few days. Until then, we'll make do with some of the extracurricular events at the conference: Damien Vizcarra, Kevin Young, and Jung Tak of Continuum with their double-winning entry in the IBM Ultimate Derby, "Swine Flu." The design won both the race in their category and the People's Favorite award.

Money added to the car's piggy bank increased the weight and so made the car go faster. I and a number of others packed our change into it until it was full. The designers are multiplying the amount collected by ten and will donate $ 1000 to design education. Nice going, guys!

Below, Lorraine Justice, Head of the Design School at Hong Kong Polytechnic, in a round of PowerPoint Karaoke, in which she presents slides she has never seen before. This was a diversion cooked up by Tamara Christensen of Arizona State, and was great fun between sessions.

Monday, September 14, 2009

F L Wright's Meyer May House Anniversary

September 10th was the 100th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's Meyer May House, built for retail magnate Meyer May in 1909 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is perhaps the most meticulously-preserved example of Wright's work, renovated by Steelcase in 1987.

As I get ready to take another group of students through the history of industrial design, it's a joy to find Steelcase's detailed site about this house. I especially like the video on the house and the process of restoring it, as well as the section that illuminates Wright's design principles. Any student of ID or architectural history will be rewarded for spending some time here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Analytical Toolsets

Here is the set of tools for analysis of research data that John Payne presented at EPIC 2009. He ran a workshop in which we discussed and refined this process. I was especially interested, as I had come to the same conclusion as John—that there are few who have assembled an organized and comprehensive way to analyze research results. I had begun to assemble a kit of tools of my own:

In my previous post I showed the "Tool Picker" for helping design students decide which research methods to use. The right-hand edge of that diagram containing the list of methods is shown, above. The question: after you use the proscribed set of methods in the field, how do you make sense of what you've found?

I have been putting together a set of tools gathered from my own experience and the experience of others (such as the good folks at the Institute of Design at IIT, Dori Tunstall, Lloyd Walker, Andy Ogden, among others). This is the "Insights : Opportunities" deck we've been using in my Design Investigations course. The intent is that, with the use of a variety of "lenses" through which to look at the data, the conclusions will be more robust. I've been very pleased with the results. Where before, students finished their research presentations with a single slide containing three or four bullet-point conclusions, they are now concluding with ten or twelve slides, each pointing out a viable design opportunity that derives from an insight from the research.

When I saw John's Analysis / Synthesis Palette at EPIC, I was fascinated. He is coming at the same problem from a completely different direction. I am using the metaphor of a group of individuals looking at the research data, each with a different point of view. John is looking at the process itself, and creating, in a wonderfully methodical way, different ways to arrange, sift, compile, deconstruct, and recombine the data, winding up with prescribed directions.

I will be looking over my notes for some time, to decide how I will change what I'm doing based on his approach.