I‘ve been trying to formulate my own approach to what innovation should achieve and how it should work. So these are some of my loose notes and thoughts on the topic.Are.na Collection
Space10 Playbook—Space10 has always been a favorite of mine. The external innovation lab of IKEA has not only published some great work, they also have one of the clearest missions for a „innovation lab“, at least for what I‘ve seen so far.
Legible Practices—A collection of methods and case studies of work by the Helsinki Design Lab. Written to be used not to as marketing material. (free PDF or Print on Demand)
In Studio: Recipes for Systemic change—A longer collection of the studio model for innovation the Helsinki Design Lab used. It focusses on diving deep into the problem and trying to understand the underlying trends rather then simply sprinting your way to a solution. (free PDF or Print on Demand)
Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary—Dan Hills long essay on strategic design. It‘s written for designers and architects, but is ultimately applicable to everyone finding themselves in the unfortunate position of trying to change an organization. Hill focusses on ways and means of designing the context of work. Published by Strelka it‘s available on Amazon, as well as some eBook version on different platforms. You might have to look around a bit.
Make Maintainers: Engineering Education and an Ethics of Care—Andrew Russells and Lee Vinsels important critique of „innovation“ and the importance of maintenance and care for societies.
A minimal viable product (MVP) is a version of a product, project, or concept with just enough features to satisfy early customers. It‘s a way of testing an assumption before committing to building a fully-featured product. The concept was popularized by the author and consultant Eric Ries.
↳ Minimal Viable Product
But during my work in the innovation team at the Süddeutsche Zeitung I found the MVP-framework lacking in a couple of ways. As with most concepts out of the startup-to-consultancy-pipeline, it lacks a way of interfacing with the structure of the organization and its dark matter.
As a result, MVPs build by an innovation team are in danger of being created in a vacuum. They might fit the users‘ needs but aren‘t sustainable inside the organization because of lacking resources, knowledge, man-power, or a miss-fit with strategy or business goals. Such teams might end up with a perfectly fine new product, but without a way to sustain it further.
Products and projects need the political will, the people (developers, designers, etc.), the tools, and the technical infrastructure to build and maintain it. Building this infrastructure is often an implicit part of innovation, but for complex organizations, it has to be explicit to be successful.
Which in turn means, that innovation has to work on different levels inside these organizations. It might be more useful to influence the strategy, hiring, or processes to build a solid infrastructure that can then support the new product, then building the product itself.
↳ Minimal Supportable Product—a sketch
My suggestion would be something like a minimal supportable product or (MSP). An MVP that is embedded from the start in the organization and can not only be iterated along with the users‘ needs but also the organization‘s capabilities, while also transforming both product and organization.
One of the most influential metaphors for my work is Dan Hill‘s „Dark Matter“ from his book „Dark Matter and Trojan Horses“. Dark Matter describes the invisible forces influencing organizations, projects and concepts:
organisational culture, policy environments, market mechanisms, legislation, finance models and other incentives, governance structures, tradition and habits, local culture and national identity, the habitats, situations and events that decisions are produced within.
To work successfully as a in-house innovation team means being able to read and understand this Dark Matter and also having the tools to engage with it.