Invention Cycle – How to bring your ideas to life

In the very first day of SID program, I spent evening after the course getting inspired by Tina Seelig, a Stanford University Professor and co-director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. The forum was Aalto Design Factory’s series of Thought Leaders’ Talks. Tina has been recognized as a national leader in engineering education and she teaches courses on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. Yep, you remember correctly, the same institute from which Katja Tschimmel introduced us one of the pioneering innovation models.

Invention Cycle

Tina spoke about how to get rough ideas out of our heads into the real world and further into ventures. She introduced us the tool she has developed, the Invention Cycle.

We started off with the concept of Creativity. What is creativity essentially? We have to agree on the basic concepts and to create a common vocabulary first to make communication easier. Creativity is a skill we can learn, by practicing.

In a nutshell, innovating starts with Imagination – envisioning things that do not exist yet. Creativity is needed in using our imagination to face challenges and in innovating unique solutions to them. We also need Entrepreneurship to apply innovations.

All of these elements (Creativity, Imagination, Innovation, Entrepreneurship) make an Invention cycle, characterized by relationships, attitudes and actions.

Going further into the imagination phase, Tina pointed out how true passion is evoked with engagement. We need to be motivated and to motivate others and have the right mindset allowing experimentation, which generates us the data we need to carry ideas further.

Pretotype before Prototype

Regarding experimentation, Tina introduced the thought of doing pretotype before prototype. The example given that enlights it well was offering a new dish in the restaurant menu just to see if it would be ordered or not. This way we can rapidly see if the concept is worth developing further or not.

Framestorm before Brainstorm

We should put a lot of time and attention to looking our ideas from different angles – we should ask the right question before ideation phase. There exists an infinite number of solutions. To maintain the right set of mind, Tina suggested that in the beginning of innovating we ought to fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

‘Sisu’ is needed on the way

When achieving the implementation phase of the Innovation Cycle, we need entrepreneurial spirit: capability to inspire others to invest on our idea and to build a good team. We also need grit or sisu to push through the greyest stone. Tina referred to storytelling as an aid to create a compelling sales pitch.

(For our fellow foreign students, check the meaning of sisu as explained by Wikipedia.)

In the conclusion of the lecture audience posed a few questions to Tina. One of them was how to implement the cycle. According to Tina, we should first figure out where we are in the cycle. We need people with diverse sets of strengths – creatives, innovatives, entrepreneurs and so forth. Then we should share the essential vocabulary, inspire our team and excite our imagination with problems!

The other question which alerted my curiousity was about whether this concept or tool is transferable interculturally. I disagree on its transferability, as the degree of power of authority in societies varies a lot. You need a culture with low degree to enable the equality of team members and thus enable them to contribute to the process. I would gladly receive comments on this thought on the blog comment section.

Tina has published a book that goes deeper into these lecture topics. It is called “Insight Out” and is available in Amazon, currently being rated 4,5 stars by 23 readers.

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(This blog post contributes to the course of Current Topics in Service Design.)

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