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Design and innovation - how to make it happen in big organisations

Blogginlägg   •   Feb 29, 2016 15:17 CET

Are you having problem with implementing a design approaches into your organisation? In this blog post Ingo Rauth, has a PhD in innovation management, will share the finding and insights from his research that focuses on how new approaches to innovating are adapted and used in large organisations. Ingo also have years of experience from working as a designer.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.

– As a child I always wanted to become a carpenter. In retrospective I think this was because I was fascinated by the fact that a little guy like me could “innovate” with some simple tools from my grandpa’s workbench. I guess this fascination for tools or approaches to innovation has stayed with me, guiding my development from becoming a graphic and later industrial designer, to someone who seeks to understand these approaches and how they could be adapted and used.

How would you summarise your research?

– My research focuses on how new approaches to innovating (e.g. service design, design thinking) develop and how they are adapted and used in large organisations.

Why did you choose this direction?

– Working as a designer I realised that individuals in organisations often have a hard time to innovate due to established processes, culture and structure. This made me curious and I wanted to find ways to support organisations in their thriving to master innovation. Looking for answers, I started to read scientific papers on the subject and ask a lot of questions to researchers and practitioners alike. This eventually led me to pursue a PhD in innovation management at Chalmers University.

How did you do the research?

– To figure out what was going on, myself and two of my colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology investigated what was happening at 17 multinational companies (mainly Germany and the US) over a period of 5 years. Here, we focused on design thinking, an approach that promises user-centered innovation inspired by the way designers work. We interviewed managers as well as employees about how design thinking was brought in, adapted and used inside their firm. Further, we co-created a US based network that brings together leading practitioners and researchers and fosters experience exchange.

What's the most important finding?

– There were many interesting findings related to theory and practice. The most important one from my perspective, however, was that individuals often thought of an innovation approach as an off-the-shelf solution. Doing so, led to a couple of problems that hindered the successful uptake of the approach. Most importantly, the new approach was not adapted to the company, leading to a lot of internal resistance, frustration and waste of resources. This is also interesting as some individuals tried to “implement” a user-centered way of working, top down - violating the principles that they would like to stand up for. Also, individuals charged with bringing in the innovation approach to the company were at times selected based on experiences related to innovation. Thus, they were less experienced in dealing with transforming the innovation approaches and the organisational change to work together.

What practical implications do you intent to have with your research?

– Based on what I learned, there is only one crucial thing that I hope people will remember the next time they deal with a new approach to innovation:

  • Innovation approaches are like recipes in a fancy cook book. You need to adapt them to your kitchen and taste to make them work.
  • If people just use this very simple insight, I’m convinced that things will get a little bit better.

What are the next steps - are you going to continue researching?

– I would like to engage with companies that would like to experiment with more effective and efficient ways to bring new innovation approaches into their operations. Doing so I want to develop new practical tools and contribute to our knowledge in research simultaneously.

Are you having problem with implementing a design approach into your organisation?

Ingo Rauth is a special guest and speaker at a breakfast seminar held by Transformator Design the 22nd of April. Read more about the breakfast. 

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