If you should need any evidence that Dev Patnaik, the CEO and founder of Jump Associates, is marching to the beat of a different drummer, consider what he does when he's not in the office. Since 1999, Dev has been teaching a popular course at nearby Stanford University called Needfinding. In it, students draw upon methods from anthropology, design research and business planning to discover new insights about ordinary people and create new products for them. While the class is required for all design majors, it's become a smash crossover hit, drawing in legions of students from Stanford's Business School, its School of Education, and even computer science majors.
That's evocative of what's happening at Jump, which is not so much a design firm as it is a firm focused intently on finding those kinds of opportunities and translating them into growth--across disciplines. Since 1997, Dev has worked closely to help America's biggest brands grow by leaps and bounds: GE, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Target, and Hewlett-Packard. But Jump's work rarely follows down the traditional product design path. Take, for example, what Dev and his team did for NBC. Jump provided the network with set of design principles to apply across their hit show Sunday Night Football. This includes everything from how they portray athletes off the field, to how they advertise, to what Jump calls the "seriousness and humility" with which they broadcast. While they didn't design the Web page or shoot the credits, Sunday night was never quite the same after Jump stepped in; just watch the cinematic opening of the Web site  for a taste.
Dev has collected this wisdom in the book Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy , a book that argues that the human power of empathy is the source of all innovation. He's even created the Empathometer , which ranks companies from high to low on the empathy gauge. If that's not enough to entice you enough to buy the book, how about this plug by Malcolm Gladwell: "Wired to Care will convince you that businesses succeed with their hearts as much as their heads. Dev Patnaik has given us just what we need for the lean years ahead."
This week, Dev takes the guest blogging reins at Fast Company, where he warns us that we're in for a different kind of design discussion than we're had in the past. He's going to re-evaluate our relationship with those two elusive I-words: Innovation and Impact. Yep, Dev is going to prove that innovation still has a business impact. "Up until a year ago, innovation was the toast of the business world. Companies around the world were investing heavily in design, launching new products, and even building virtual retail stores in Second Life." But in the wake of the financial disaster, he says, "It's entirely legitimate to wonder: is innovation relevant anymore?" While you ponder that, get cozy with a few recent samples of Dev's work:
A Target store featuring the products Jump created together with the retailer for back-to-school shopping.
A photo from a biker rally during a project for Harley-Davidson to create a new brand community strategy.
A screenshot of NBC's Web site for Sunday Night Football.
JumpSpace, Jump's HQ, which Dev co-designed with Michael Fazio of Archideas.
Read Dev Patnaik's Innovation blog