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Edge of Innovation

A community that brings innovation leaders together through creative, inspirational, educational, and thought-provoking content.

Live from FEI 2013: The Sprint to Innovation: Philadelphia Univ and Unilever

Peas + Carrots: The Front End of Innovation 2013 has begun.
                              
Our approach to these posts will be to give you something to take home
to your friends, family and colleagues unable to attend. We will provide a
perspective on the marriage of design and innovation. Sometimes they may look
like a cute old couple sitting on a park bench, other times they may appear to
be frustrated parents of unappreciative kids. Either way, there will be some
relationship worth noting. 
In the end we hope to give you snippets of what you heard, but from a
different perspective or broad brushes from what you missed when you followed a
alternative path. Either way, we appreciate the sharing and will do the best to
quote those quote approach us with interesting thoughts.
Enjoy.
One of the early afternoon sessions was a collaborative effort between
education and big business, the University of Philadelphia and Unilever.
Here's how it went.
D.R. Widder, Exec Director, Innovation, Philadelphia
University
started it off right with a quote about where our education institutions fit
on the timetable of innovation, "we are the front end, of the front
end of innovation." Whatever Mr. Widder talked about after this quote
didn't matter much, this writer was hooked, line and sinker.
He went into the merging of their school of
engineering, design and business to formulate what they call the Sprint
program (wish it had a better 'non-tel com' name). This was the foundation for the
institution's philosophy for innovation in education and educating on
innovation. This writer has a yet to be quenched desire to see this effort come
to life in more institutions, so Mr. Widder was a welcome stream in the desert.
Then, Michael Leonard gave
us a view inside the programs and platforms. He talked about teaching in design
studio, with business students (any fellow MBA students out there who have
experienced this before?). He talked at length about solving problems, how
the group included students from all levels (freshmen undergraduate to
post-graduate students). The effort was taking on projects, solving problems,
project management and working at a higher level with their organizational
clients (this one specifically being Unilever). The intensity and brevity (one
week ideation) was what surprised a few. It was fast and furious, academic
style.
Then, the truth teller got up to keep us all honest. Gail Martino, Unilever R&D spoke as the
client / collaborative partner in this case study. As a part of the Unilever
Compass strategy the CEO's directive was to 'double the organization's size
while halving their environmental footprint.' A notable effort for Unilever to
leap beyond shareholder value and seek much higher values.
So, while Unilever does a fair amount of what one might call open
innovation, (including a website to collect ideas from the general public) they
are always looking for new channels of collaboration.
This effort was a nice match and the results showed up:
1.   
30+ product concepts,
2.   
5 taken forward,
3.   
3 product concepts taken to second stage.
These were real results and an outcome for education, students and the
corporation.
There were plenty of other good nuggets, including how the team dealt
with intellectual property and what each group found to be the most valuable
outcomes. But, those items for another post tomorrow. Ff you would like we can
email further thoughts to you individually.
Thank you for taking the time to read and consider our perspective.
Aaron Keller
Managing Principal
Capsule