Learning from a 1000 conversations

10 Oct 2007|Darrel Rhea

Innovation is still a sizzling topic, evidenced by the dozens of speeches requested of me by a wide range of industry groups this year around the world and which I delivered to keenly interested audiences. I have presented to many large groups of CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, Designers, Design Researchers, and others in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. After a hundred thousand air miles and scores of conferences and hundreds of personal dialogues with the individuals attending….What have I learned?

CEOs want the outcomes of innovation. They don’t want design, they don’t want process, they don’t really want a culture of innovation. They want growth. Topline, bottomline, organic growth. They want the financial markets to love them. If you are looking to get internal support for your innovation initiative, you had better be in that business.

CMOs want love too. They want innovation that is recognized and associated with their brands, and they want their brands loved. Your innovation initiative had better move and inspire customers.

CIOs are split between those who think of their jobs as keeping the trains running on time, and those who are building platforms for growth. The former group is threatened by innovation because it adds complexity to the system. The latter wants to get in on the ground floor of innovation initiatives and make a big contribution. Beware of the difference!

Designers expect to be loved. They think they have a lock on creativity, and want to be recognized for it. Business people, on the other hand, have many ways to grow, and don’t always appreciate what designers bring to the table. While the industry is getting much better, there is often an attitude among designers that there is something wrong with business people for the lack of recognition given by them.

Design Researchers think they have invented customer empathy and the tools to develop it. They are often blind to the global $20 billion dollar 60-year-old market research industry that is populated by 750,000 professionals who believe they own design research and are doing credible work in innovation. While there are real differences between market research and design research, and while we have design researchers who are truly masterful, there is a startling lack of professional awareness of the research discipline.

These are huge generalizations, and while there are certainly more learnings to share, that should be enough to provoke someone out there. 🙂

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