To Design and Develop


At the heart of innovation is a creative process. This is obvious to most young people I’ve talked with, even if they have had no experience actually doing it. But in many cases I’ve been talking to management and engineering students who are now connected to creativity only on account of their youth and their proximity to the unstructured play and joyful interaction that still organizes their social interactions. As they move forward in life they will move further and further away from such creativity. At one further point, creativity will become for them a hidden and mystical world, one which they are sometimes forced to engage, or even worse, be responsible for.

In most emerging economies the word design is used exclusively to describe the quality of articles of visual consumption: jewelry, apparel, accessories, luxury goods, home fashions, architectural statements. The wider sense of the word as a creative mode of problem solving, systems thinking or data visualization is not really known, nor is its role in product development widely understood. To avoid confusion, therefore, we have chosen to describe the role of creativity in the conceptualization of product, service or systems with another word: develop.

The process of develop can be described rather simply: it is the iterative description of a possible solution to a problem to higher and higher degrees of fidelity. Let me explain what that means: you have an idea, it can be described in a sentence, you write that sentence down on a post-it note. Then you add a little diagram explaining your sentence. Then you think on it some more and you describe it on an A4 sheet of paper with a bunch of sentences and a couple of drawings. Then you make a three-slide powerpoint presentation on it. You show that around and get feedback and develop it further into a ten-slide presentation. Then you write a 30 page paper describing your concept using multiple images, which you submit to get some funding or permissions to build the thing out. Next you make a virtual model of your solution maybe using a 3-D modeling software. Next you make a non-working or dummy prototype of your solution. Next you make a working prototype. Now your description is at 1 : 1 resolution with your concept. This arc of develop has come to its natural resting point.

The challenge for most people is that the arc of develop works counterintuitively for them. They are most often habituated to using their rational side to ask whether a particular solution will work and how well, not to making a solution using their innate creativity and problem solving genius. At the beginning of the arc there is nothing, only a set of problems. Towards the end there are options with density, the rigor of description, some sense of partial reality. How can something come out of nothing? It remains a mystery for those who have not acknowledged, cultivated and nurtured their creative capabilities.

Our course Innovate 201: Develop teaches the most important skill that a young person can acquire in preparation for the world of innovation: an understanding of how challenges and problems can be converted to ideas, concepts and solutions.

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