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Out of the box - user driven innovation

The research landscape is changing, and with changing times the need to think outside of the box is one important key to success. Here in Norway, the commitment to R&D has always been high, with the Research Council at the forefront – also in terms of finding new approaches to finding new solutions. The rules have changed, and “User-Driven Research-based Innovation” (BIA) is in the spotlight.

 The Research Council of Norway is pivotal in the ongoing process of a focus on opportunities, challenges and cooperation possibilities. The roots of the BIA program emerged several years ago as a result of a report to the Norwegian Parliament that caution was urged - that putting too much emphasis on R&D narrows segments of industry. The report further cautioned that the result of this tendency would likely result in a lack of support for other projects that had in fact a greater potential for wider socio-economic success and profit.

Let Ideas Open the Door
The result was the opening for a wider range of projects and possibilities from the perspective of the general business sector, based on the premise that it is the individual company or consortium that determines the innovative need, and based on this need constructs an application to the Research Council. Cooperative efforts between Norwegian companies and their international counterparts are common as part of this program.

The success of the BIA program has been rooted in the fact that companies apply for funding – based specifically on their own strategies and situation – with the possibility to apply for such funding regardless of the branch of industry or subject of R&D in question. The company must present a sound project and basic core strategies that explain how the project will create “substantial added-value” for not only the company, but society in general, nationally as well as internationally.

 

Project Director Simon Clatworthy, Professor of Interactive Design at the Oslo School of Design and Architecture (AHO).
© AHO

 

The Learning Progress
The BIA program has spawned a wide range of projects and activities, and at the same time has been a fascinating learning process for all involved. The synergies of participation are one reason for the success being experienced, with diverse groups, organizations and businesses often being represented in individual projects. It is this sort of combination that leads to unexpected innovations and breakthroughs.

According to the Research Council, once selected, projects are organized into relevant consortia, something that facilitates cooperation not only between selected companies, but also with the R&D community. This is aimed at creating the synergy of optimizing the opportunities to achieving success while at the same time triggering new R&D initiatives within Norwegian trade and industry – a catalyst to continued future successes.

AT-ONE with the Future
In times of old, products were often conceived, designed, developed, produced and then pumped out into the marketplace where consumers did just that – consumed. Now, the world is turning towards a more service-oriented perspective - seeing things from the perspective of the buyer. One BIA project that typifies this is “AT-ONE”, a 3-year undertaking with Simon Clatworthy of the Oslo School of Design and Architecture leading the process. AT-ONE is a structure methodology focused on the early stages of the innovation project, one that places emphasis on elements that include customer needs, service innovation, customer experiences, multi-channel delivery and, not least – design.

One of the ironic aspects of project development is that the majority of resources, money and time – over 80% - are typically committed to the first stage of a project – before the planning group fully understands the needs of the customer and the market. This typical mistake often ends up in situations where projects fail, wrong directions are taken, too much money is used, goals are not reached – and this is at the core of what AT-ONE is seeking to solve in this undertaking in cooperation with the Research Council of Norway and several companies in this country.

According to Project Director Simon Clatworthy, Professor of Interactive Design at the Oslo School of Design and Architecture (AHO), what the project hopes to provide are new lenses through which to view services: “The key is to see the process from the perspective of the user, to deliver the product or services across multiple touch points that not only provide new innovative experiences, but send a clear word to the customer that his or hers needs are understood and respected.”

Experience-Based Design Leadership
Goods are out, and people are in; systems are out, and design is in; the concept of selling has changed, and the idea of experiences has come through the door in a paradigm shift with design and service focus on people and their experiences. People are at the core, as Richard Florida, author of “The Creative Class”, indicates; “The key to success today lies in developing a world-class people climate. This entails remaining open to diversity and actively working to cultivate it.”

Judith Gloppen is one firm believer in a combination of service and design, and her doctorate project with the AHO shows that – as Gloppen says – “If service isn’t everything, at least it affects us all in our everyday lives.” The doctorate is part of the AT-ONE project, and is focused on “Design Leadership”, which requires both business and design knowledge and has to do with creating a common understanding of visions and strategies related to services. One service strategy framework is, as Gloppen calls it, the “Service Journey” - a journey where the needs of the user are central in absolutely every element of the service.

The Service Journey
This “Service Journey” was in fact a very literal experience for doctor-candidate Gloppen, as she was instrumental in the start and transformation of the “Flytoget”, the high-speed train line that runs from the centre of Oslo to the main Gardermoen airport north of the city. She applied the Service Journey and Design Leadership strategies to this travel experience and the result was that feedback from Flytoget customers was nothing less than overwhelmingly positive. In an independent survey, Flytoget customers gave a loyal score of over 90% - the highest result ever measured in such a survey here in this country.

Professor Clatworthy and Judith Gloppen are true believers in the concept of design and design leadership as an integral, functional element of any process, and the AT-ONE project is making impressive strides in showing this through measurable and concrete design strategies. For more information regarding the AT-ONE project and the “User-Driven Research-based Innovation” program (BIA), see the Research Council of Norway’s website.

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