Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – March 6, 2013 – Veros Advisors LLC, the suburban Philadelphia-based strategy and innovation consulting firm, recently brought together three of the region’s top innovators for a panel discussion on “Innovation by Design” at the University City Science Center.
Featured panelists on the “Smart Talk: Innovation by Design” panel, held on Wednesday, February 27th, were Jeffrey Friedman, Co-Director of the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics; Youngmoo Kim, Director of the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center at Drexel University; and Lawrence Husick, an expert on intellectual property and technological law with the firm Lipton, Weinberger & Husick.
The discussion was moderated by Frank Pulcini, founder and President of Veros Advisors LLC. Over 75 local entrepreneurs, business leaders and students from industries including bio-tech, pharmaceuticals, life sciences and technology attended the fast-paced 90 minute discussion, and a lively question-and-answer session.
Pulcini, who has over 25 years of consulting experience advising Fortune 500 companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson, told the group: “At Veros Advisors, our mission is to rid the world of ‘Unnovation’ and replace it with ‘Innovation by Design.’ The products, the companies, the businesses we view as innovative are innovative because they are valued by people – they have a human-centered design, a human-centered value. The design process incorporates people, technology, and business. Design is a process that can be applied to any problem, from finding a job to starting a business.
“In our work, we show how design principles relate to innovation,” said Pulcini. “Wherever there’s innovation, there’s design. If you want to innovate, there’s no better way than to design. It’s not a nebulous process – it is very codified. All the great organizations have been designed brands.”
Husick, who has extensive experience as a technology consultant, computer system designer, software author and intellectual property lawyer, related to the audience many of his experiences with technology companies, notably his first meeting with Apple founder Steve Jobs.
“I pitched Steve Jobs on an idea when he was starting NeXT. One thing I saw right away was that he didn’t suffer fools gladly,” Husick said. “The person who pitched before me had 20 seconds before he was thrown out of the room. Steve gave me one minute, and then said ‘that’s cool,’ and told his associate to give me what I wanted and he walked out. Steve Jobs demanded unflinching honesty and quality from everyone. Once he said, ‘Compare us to Phillips. Here, if you do good work, it will ship. There, 98 percent of your work ends up in the trash.’
“Most traditional innovation is defensive, a reaction to a competitors," Husick asserted. “It’s not safe to stand still. Design-centered innovation is how I can create value – it’s like creative destruction. I’m not going to wait to be threatened; I’m going to be in the vanguard, doing the threatening.”
Friedman, the co-director of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, spoke about his perspective at an in-house civic idea incubator.
“I’ve been in city government for a few years, and have led a number of initiatives to make city government more open, participatory, transparent, entrepreneurial and innovative. While I do have a law degree, I didn’t pursue a legal career -- I want to be one of those who make changes in the civic space,” said Friedman. “In government, traditional innovation is driven from the top down. all departments are told to accept a change. User-centric, customer-centric innovation is driven from the bottom, up.
"We have several projects underway that are highly collaborative, engaging people and resources from within city government as well as from the private and education sectors,” Friedman said. “As with any new initiative, it takes time to build coalitions that work and are sustainable, but we are seeing evidence that we are on the right path and that innovation in government can be exciting and productive. Critically important is commitment from the top, and we have that."
An Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Drexel University, Kim discussed his role in establishing the ExCITe Center and his research lab, the Music and Entertainment Technology Laboratory (MET-lab).
“We started by combining music and science, but it wasn’t by design at first,” Kim said. “With the ExCITe Center, we are bringing together a lot of different researchers and disciplines under one roof, and that brings innovation through collaboration. Traditional innovation has been disciplined and focus – what can we create that is new? Design-centered innovation requires advances in multiple fields.
“Design-centered innovation has taken a strong hold in academia,” said Kim. “At Drexel, we are trying to move from a single disciplinary approach – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – because we don’t think that tells the whole story. We are integrating art and design, too. We are now seeing educators beginning to embrace a design-centered approach to building a curriculum and activities from kindergarten to grade 12.”
According to Pulcini, “Some organizations can’t seem to ‘get’ innovation. We recently worked with a multi-disciplinary team at a company that came up with a great idea, but they were told by their manager that ‘we don’t do things like that here.’ Because they felt so strongly about their concept, they decided to present the idea to their president and he gave them a push to go forward. ‘Innovation by Design’ requires entrepreneurs and business leaders to be open to new ideas and be willing to take risks.”
In response to an audience question about how to persuade senior managers to become champions of innovation, Husick commented that “pushing on a rope doesn’t work. My thesis is that acceptance of any innovation recognizes two things – people are lazy and cheap. Is it something that gives them more money or more free time? Is there a value for the consumer? An innovation that gives you pull in the marketplace, instead of something that is pushed."
Friedman noted that “bureaucracies move slowly, and traditionally don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation can expose problems in a system. You need to bring in outsiders, especially in government, who have experience solving problems.”
“You need a strong immune system to be an innovator,” Kim said. “When you exist in a genius environment, you can innovate. Bureaucracies treat innovators like bacteria and work quickly to eliminate them from the system."
Husick asked the audience if they knew the definition of an org chart. “An organization chart tells you who you are not allowed to talk to,” Husick said. “If you want innovation, you need to redesign an organization. Innovation always entails risk.”
About Veros Advisors:
Veros Advisors is a strategy and innovation firm that helps individuals and enterprises take a person-centric approach to innovation and growth. The company collaborates with a wide variety of clients on innovation and strategy initiatives, including brand, communication, business design, insights and discovery, and product and service innovation. Additional information is available at http://www.verosadvisors.com.