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Innovation's true character....

So the economic crisis is in full force and juxtaposed against what also currently appears to be a full commitment to Design and Innovation by business.  In front of us, there is a moment of truth. The question now becomes, will the commitment to innovation survive the enevitable onslaught of cost cutting and retreat to safer ground?

How many newly minted Chief Innovation officers will be able to make the case and continue to take risks and advance and nuture a vision of the future?

I am teaching a class tonite in which the core topic is Bang & Olufsen, the Danish company that has always lead from a design standpoint. More than a few lessons to learn there, and the case study (Harvard Business School 9-607-016) is an inspiration in light of today's new realities. A company who's true commitment to design and innovation has survived trial and success.


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  • Mark Dziersk

    Great insight. It is counter intuative, but most likely a proper notion that hard times are actually (in many cases) a catalyst for design. Perhaps most for non capital intensive design ie; Re packaging, re-branding,graphic updates. That said, is it not true also that the luxury goods may be shielded from the worries of the mass market during a downturn?

  • Ian Martin Ajzenszmidt

    Despite the tough economic times there will always be a market. Demand for goods and services will continue to exist. Consumers will not stop consuming because there is an economic crisis, but may consume less. In tough economic times consumers discriminate between necessities and luxuries. Consumers will not cease or limit their food and beverage consumption because of the cyclical economic downturn. There is a need for Chief Innovation Officers to innovate in the area of low cost, high nutrition and health value food and beverage consumables. People still need to buy food, and the emphasis will be on value for money. Similarly with clothing and apparel. In a cyclical economic downturn, consumers may well look for the utility, strength, durability and low cost in items of clothing as a priority instead of elegance and fashion. It is worthwhile to undertake market research to actually determine what the consumers see as desirable selling points during tough economic times, and innovate accordingly. On the other hand, it may be harder to market luxury items such as vacation cruises and expensive luxury automobiles.

  • Todd Mannira

    In these time's the driver for Innovation to be innovative, is Design. Time to think differently and add more tools to the toolbox, consumers are always looking for that "smart" product and a good design will carry it along way. Bang & Olufsen is a great example of that, but also is Herman Miller and their new Teneno storage system, or MUJI products. I think John Maeda puts it well in his "Laws of Simplicity" Design, Business, Technology and Life - follow his 10 laws, yet a toolbox for good design. Today business must measure and drive Innovation by the design and the integrity of it. Innovation is just getting started into a more refined process, because it is the safest ground to promote products the right way in these tough times.

  • Vernon Martin

    Innovation must be innovative enough to present a undeniable answer to the present or future need the society. If we take our creativity and produce obsolete or ineffective products (especially now), what should society do? We are at a point of decision, if we can follow some of the goals in the past such as creating products first and driving consumer demand after its development we will probably find innovators looking for employment. If the newly minted Chief Innovators press forward toward ways to help us cope with the inevitable economic and physical sacrifices that stand at the door, they will have absolute job security. When the house is on fire, I am more interested in the innovator that designed a better fire escape than the one that’s perfecting my musical experience and right now, someone has pulled the world fire alarm!