The class is about “Service Innovation Management”. Though the action based learning, by using the “Design Thinking”, which is famous for many innovations by IDEO, we will learn the process of Innovation.
Actually, I did not prepare for this class at all yet… because I am not sure whether I can take this class. From the syllabus, it seems to be quite familiar with me because I always have intuitively thought new service, new application, and new business when I was in Japan and in charge of developing business from the perspective of technology.
In particular, in terms of “explore”, the time when I often came up with creative idea is during my commute in the early morning, before becoming crazy congested in Tokyo. There are several reasons why I came up with those in early morning, in my thought: (1) fresh (empty) brain, (2) body activation through working, and (3) many observations in the journey.
Design Thinking is, in my thought, the process of developing innovation. Basically, innovation is difficult to find the seed, develop (meaning “convince boss”, simply saying), and implement it to the actual service/product. In the design thinking, the process is divided into four phases: explore, discovery, design, and implement phase.
Actually, I know a bit about it. But, what I want to learn here is as following:
(1) Experience of the process
I have never experienced this process actually because it is sometimes difficult to introduce the new process in the business organization.
(2) Experience with a team
Usually, we will do this process with team. It is the different story from doing individually. Especially, for me, working with international guys will be unique, beneficial, and tough experience!
(3) Learning theoretically
I have some knowledge and experience of innovation but those are my own ways. Now is the time to review my own process and input best practices and proper theories in the world.
Honestly, I was embarrassed in the class. There are several reasons.
(1) Concept of Observation
What is observation? I did every time. Why is it so emphasized? Why we need to take so much time to do that? Where is the business or technical feasibility study? Why we need to consider followings so deeply? (meaning, I know its important but I am not sure why so emphasized.)
- Problem Framing
- Hunt Statement
(2) Class Atmosphere
I have never experienced such an atmosphere in the class and from the prof. The class was like an open discussion style. Prof. would not provide a lecture only, rather, provide many discussion with team or class. In such a class, it would be very fun and beneficial if I could understand English perfectly and speak up my opinions. But, it was a bit hard to catch up with.
(3) Team activity
It was a very tough time for me to collaborate with new teammates in a short time. Additionally, all of guys in the team except me is native English speaker. I only could understand the discussion 60-70%, and my brain was so busy to listen to and understand it that I could not speak up my opinions. Theoretically, we say collaborating with diversified member makes our work creative and innovative but it’s not so easy.
Lastly, our team decided our theme, “Senior Connectedness Services”. We will create the concept of e-service on this topic. Just coming up with the idea of new service is easy for me but the challenge here is that we need to do through the process of “Design Thinking”. To make it more challenging, I do not have any channels to access seniors here in the U.S. What should I do…
Even though I could not understand the concept of the Explore Phase, our team decided to observe seniors in Ann Arbor.
So, what should I do…
I came up with observing seniors in grocery stores.
However, I could not find seniors somehow!
I think the generation pyramid here in the U.S. is almost same as that in Japan, the place I came from, like “aging society”. In particular, here Ann Arbor seems that many seniors live in. But, the difference was obvious. In Japan, there were many many seniors in grocery stores, trains, and so on.
Why? Did I choose wrong sample (Kroger)? Or, are there any reasons?
We shared activities that we did in the last week. Some guys talked his grand mom/dad or observed seniors at the grocery store behind of them. But, we somewhat lost our focus.
In addition to my story that I wrote in the previous post, shared observations are as following:
After the presentation we did in the class, we decided to concentrate our problem framing and continue to observe seniors:
Additionally, the key learning in the class is as following: “Don’t think the solution. Observe the facts. If you find or feel something, just record or memo it.”
When I went to get my hair cut, I asked my hairstylist, who is American resident in AA, how seniors get groceries since I still could not find seniors in the grocery stores even in Busch’s.
She told me an example of her father, saying that her father asks grocery store to deliver groceries to him every time but it’s not so common here, and she insisted there should be more such service.
After that, I checked Meijor and Kroger but only Meijor has such service. But it is only for cans or dried food, not for fresh foods, and takes 2 to 3 days to deliver at least. It might not work. Actually, there are same sort of service in Japan. So, I am just wondering whether such grocery delivering service is common here.
Is there service delivering groceries to the people who have phsically disability like elderly people?
My teammates answered this questions, saying this is very common in New York because the city is so dense - we’re likely to have a grocery store three blocks away from you so delivery isn’t that hard. Giant Food provides such delivery service as well. But he agree that in more sprawling cities like Ann Arbor, it’s less common. Additionally, the nonprofit, Jewish Family Services, provides transportation to stores for seniors.
It was a great time to have such a great speaker from a great firm, IDEO.
I remembered one my story…
Three years ago, I was in charge of creating a new business with my client, one of the key bank in Japan, to gain the transaction of current retail customers through the outside of conventional banking service such as depositing money or getting loan. At that time, it was in the middle or end of “2.0 bubble”. Many innovative banks, security companies, and new entrants started the transaction or financial management web service, using “social” function. My client and me came up with a personal finance management service that enable customers to interact with bank and other customers via social function. Our purpose is that gaining utilization of bank by closing the distance between bank and customers via the gained interaction since, in Japan, people use the “main bank” (should be a bigger bank to get stability) only for depositing income. (meaning, people don’t want to use such a giant bank for the financial transaction such as stock exchange etc. due to high commission)
The relationship with client was quite good so that they were happy to move on the next stage with us funding some budgets. Also, we thought we did very good job and came up with a very creative idea, by using partly the process we learned the book, the Art of Innovation, written by IDEO, and partly traditional one.
However, we could not convince our and clients’ management completely. So, we could not take enough resources to the project. And, then, we faced the default of Lehman Brothers. All banks stopped the projects ongoing…
At the same time, we heard one news that IDEO, the famous design firm, produced a creative personal financial management service, “Virtual wallet”…
This is the one of my stories to decide to go to MBA here, anyway.
The key learnings I received are as following:
Key for innovation
Process (should be iterated)
Mainly we did two things: short project and brainstorming (reverse brainstorming).
(1) short project
We went through discover and design phase with temporarily newly formed team in a short time. In this mini project, we also went through observation phase quickly, defining problem framing, assumption, and hunt statement. Additionally, to make the new team, we did an exercise lining ourselves ordered by age without talking. I think it was good idea to warm up ourselves.
(2) reverse brainstorming
Coming up with different (sometimes, negative) or apposite aspects for one theme. I think it is useful to identify what the service/product should be improved.
In addition to the team presentation, we focused on “ideation” through exercises.
Teams are assigned a famous character. Character has led the project to success, due to their particular leadership style. Project outcome has attributes of character. Process was also influenced by character’s traits. List how you got to future state, and attributes of project outcome (how people worked together, culture, values, technologies, etc.).
Unfortunately, I am foreigner here. Therefore, I had no idea about the person we assigned at all. But, fortunately, it was useful to remove the bias to some extent. I asked team “What is his strength? What about in terms of management? What about in terms of human network? and so on.” Then, team answered to me from many aspect of his characteristics. So, I could shape neutrally what kind of person he is.
The approaches that I learned here are, I think, something like “semi”-systematic approach to come up with idea. To do with team, team dynamics is very important. The idea why I added “semi” is that, if there is “non”-systematic approach to so, it would be from the intuition. But, it depends on persons. Also, it is impossible to find systematic approach to so.