The Innovation University
This is the era of cross-fertilization and diversity for creative thinkers. Radical innovation approaches are focusing more on hybridising different concepts to build up new and remarkable solutions. Challenges and business problems are not dealt in only one dimension. Multi-disciplinary teams providing different knowledge and skills are becoming the right melting pot to constructively generate resolutions that integrate many different and maybe not connected perspectives.
The business world is moving into a multi-dimensional context. Innovative companies face challenges from the technological perspective deriving their specific problem into a more generic domain (knowledge-based innovation or structured knowledge derived from the past human innovation experience) and start the search for solutions in other industries and even other worlds (i.e. nature). The generic solutions found will be used as food for thought and springboard to spark creativity to create their pursued specific solutions. At the same time, they try to understand, from a very ethnographic point of view, what are the hidden motivations and needs of their users by observing their behaviour and reaction when experiencing products and services in a given context or scenario. This user-centric innovation methodology and design thinking skills also become critical capabilities of an innovative company. And what about the business perspective? Isn’t it critical to find the right path for a business opportunity? Isn’t it part of the innovation definition that beyond the idea and its value then it comes the reward of innovation?
Where do companies have to look at to get these talented innovators bringing these skills and new approaches? At Business Schools? Design Schools? Universities of Technology?. The answer is obviously at all three at the same time. Business, technology and design are key success factors to achieve value in innovation and if we want to officialise it as a discipline, why not reforming radically the current uni-dimensional academic format? Why not creating a University of Innovation?
Stop. It has been already created the first one. The Aalto University in Finland is a merge between the Helsinki School of Economics, the University of Art and Design and the Helsinki University of Technology aiming to build a science and art community providing new possibilities for multidisciplinary and strong education and research.
This is the first step to follow. Then, the University of Innovation should program all the competences, methodologies and disciplines that foster and leverage the most important enabling process in organizations: sustainable innovation. Academic innovation may also bring basic and applied research in new approaches, methodologies and models that would catalyze creativity into value in faster, easier, more efficient ways.
In a recent article, Alfons Cornella, CEO of the innovation network Infonomia, said that management is so real-time due to the speed of markets that all management becomes innovation management in the end, a management of the permanent change. That’s a quite interesting subject to study at the University of Innovation.