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
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.
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.
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.
This is a collection of articles, books and organizations that inspired and informed my work at the innovation team of the Süddeutsche Zeitung and was part of the „Work in Progress“ zine.
A sporadically updated list can also be found on are.na.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH: COMPETING INSTITUTIONAL LOGICS, INTRAPRENEURSHIP, AND THE CASE OF CHATBOTS. Valerie Belair-Gagnon, Seth C. Lewis, Colin Agur (Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 25:4, 2020)
DILEMMAS IN GENERAL PLANNING. Horst Rittel, Melvin Webber (Policy Sciences, 4:2, 1973)
ENACTING BIG FUTURES, LITTLE FUTURES: TOWARD AN ECOLOGY OF FUTURES. Mike Michael (The Sociological Review, 65:3, 2016)
HELSINKI DESIGN LAB TEN YEARS LATER. Bryan Boyer (She ji, 6:3, 2020)
ON DESIGN THINKING. Maggie Gram (N+1, No. 35)
SIX PILLARS: FUTURES THINKING FOR TRANSFORMING. Sohail Inayatullah (Foresight, 10:1, 2008)
WHY DESIGN IS NOT PROBLEM SOLVING + DESIGN THINKING ISN’T ALWAYS THE ANSWER. Rob Peart (AIGA Eye on Design)
(Please note, that I am trying to link directly to the publisher‘s or author‘s own website. The books in question are with minor exemptions available at your favorite global e-commerce giant, as well.)
DARK MATTER AND TROJAN HORSES: A STRATEGIC DESIGN VOCABULARY. Dan Hill (Strelka Press)
EXTRAPOLATION FACTORY OPERATOR‘S MANUAL. Elliot P. Montgomery, Chris Woebken
THE FUTURE: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION. Jennifer M. Gidley (Oxford University Press)
IN STUDIO: RECIPES FOR SYSTEMIC CHANGE. Bryan Boyer, Justin Cook & Marco Steinberg (Helsinki Design Lab)
JUST ENOUGH RESEARCH. Erika Hall (A Book Apart)
LEGIBLE PRACTICES. Bryan Boyer, Justin Cook & Marco Steinberg (Helsinki Design Lab)
THE UNCERTAINTY MINDSET. Vaughn Tan (Columbia University Press)
SPECULATIVE EVERYTHING: DESIGN, FICTION, AND SOCIAL DREAMING. Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby (MIT Press)
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.