Harvard's Got Innovation All Wrong

Harvard’s got innovation and design thinking all wrong.

Which is unfortunate because this is an important moment.

We are re-assessing so much. And in such a systemic manner.

COVID really awoke many to the fact that large scale changes to daily life are both possible and can happen reasonably quickly.

But it's not just COVID: Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Climate Change, Land Back...

We recognize that we have a chance to not go back to the old “normal” — something that only worked well for the very few.

Which brings us back to the story: At the beginning of the fall 2021 semester we received an email from Harvard Business Publishing saying:

email promoting Design Thinking as innovation

“...As everyone returns to in-person work, we’re reassessing how we get things done. Design thinking highlights creative brainstorming, team-based collaboration, and user-focused experimentation to build better products and services.
Cases from companies like Apple, IBM, and IDEO demonstrate the transformative power of placing empathy at the center of innovation efforts. We’ve curated materials to share the principles of design thinking in the classroom, organized by discipline.”

Well, in this letter, Harvard’s pushing the wrong models of creativity and innovation on academics and students. Apple, IBM and IDEO — that's business as usual, and (more importantly) that's the old ineffective model of creativity (if we are looking for transformative changes). We need new paradigms, new worlds, and new approaches to creativity— and to get there we need new ways of approaching innovation.

Creative Brainstorming and the host of techniques offered by Design Thinking are exceptionally good at the incremental improvement of business as usual — but what happens when business as usual benefits the very few and is rapidly destroying the planet?

It's not a matter of only adding new content — but of rethinking our techniques, practices, habits, and tools for innovation and change-making.

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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