Article by Ali Akbar Sahiwala; Photos by Timothy McClaury
The Conference Board partnered with Pratt Institute to host a two day interactive seminar about design thinking on April 10th and 11th. Over a hundred participants attended from diverse fields, alongside students and faculty from the Pratt Design Management and Arts & Cultural Management programs, adding valuable insight to the discussions.
Leading design thinkers explained human-centered design methodologies to help develop innovative solutions to meet market needs. Design-centered innovation uses contextual observation and involves customers to enhance product value. As industry needs shift to an ‘experience economy’, there is a greater need for organizations to tap into customer insight and utilize this interaction to guide the innovation process. A necessary component needed to fuel the process is to prototype solutions to test, evaluate and subsequently refine pilot solutions to ensure operational success.
Panel discussions held over the first day catered to the mix of audiences. The panelists included leading individuals from PepsiCo, FedEx and Mayo Clinic. Their outlook varied as they discussed strategies adopted by their respective industries. A key take away message that resonated among the panelists was that innovation must be supported across the entire company in order to capture success in the marketplace. In addition, senior management must endorse investments to fuel research initiatives and encourage collaboration between departments, to create more sustainable solutions.
“In its most basic form, the implementation of design-centered innovation means: You observe, gain insight, and then take action by turning those insights into products and services that improve people’s lives.” Council Perspectives
The conference was facilitated by Monte Gibbs, a Product and Technology Officer at March Warden and visiting professor at Pratt Design Management and Arts & Cultural Management. Gibbs provided several recaps each day to cement understanding and answer questions from the audience. Additionally, Gibbs conducted working sessions at the end of each day to practice design thinking principles learned in the various seminars.
Participants formed into groups based on their specific industries and took part in an empathy mapping workshop at the end of both days. Empathy mapping is a tool used by creative industries to ensure products and services they designed are human-centered, as it encourages designers to think, feel, say and do as the end consumer. The teams posted their experience on the walls and learned ways to connect better with their respective clients and customers through this technique.
Over the second day, an applied workshop was conducted to learn practical approaches in applying design thinking principles to a select wearable technology device. This technique was devised so as to train their skills in industries outside their area of expertise. Multiple solutions were developed and subsequently evaluated in order to acquire diverse perspectives to engage, educate and empower end customers.
In all, the event was valued as an immersive workshop into the field of human centered design. Participants were encouraged to learn more about design thinking and begin employing principles into their own organizations, even if at a preliminary level. Such efforts would only help break down barriers to innovation and create more meaningful product and service offerings.
Speakers included a diverse range of leaders from the business, creative and academic communities, namely:
Peter Barna, Provost, Pratt Institute
Brian Berry, Principal and Design Director, Gensler
Erica Eden, Director of Design Innovation, PepsiCo
Monte Gibbs, Partner, Product and Technology Officer, March Warden
Dr. Ellen K. Levy, Special Advisor on the Arts and Sciences, IDVSA
James Lichtenberg, Council on Innovation, The Conference Board
Chris MacDonald, President, McCann Erickson New York
Dr. Mary McBride, Arts & Cultural Management and Design Management Chair, Pratt Institute
Emilio Pardo, EVP and President of Life Reimagined, AARP
Michelle Proctor, Director of Innovation, FedEx Corporation
Giovanni Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, SocialxDesign
Barbara Spurrier, Director, Center for Innovation, Mayo Clinic
Rita Shor, Program Director, The Conference Board