Why MA Innovation Management – Design (Part 4)

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MA Innovation Management is about Design. However, you don’t learn to design or become a Designer, but you become design-minded.

Last but no least, MA Innovation Management is about Design.  However, you don’t learn to design or become a Designer, but you become design-minded. People become design-minded in different ways. Some inherit their father’s perfectionism even with those things that are unseeable like Jobs; others are obsessed with cars. Some become exposed to design through other means as for instance the School of Art and Design at Central Saint Martins in London. For some reason Mr. Jobs seemed to have been quite in love with cars and even washing machines designed in Germany. But he needed the recently knighted Brit and a fan of Dieter Rams (‘Weniger aber besser’) to bring in the finesse of the culturally relevant design.


Design has gone a long way. It is not only about style, it is a way of thinking and understanding work and collaboration. These two articles from one of our alumni give a good overview of what design actually means: ‘Design Thinking?!’ and ‘Embracing risk: what innovators can learn from design’. It leaves the realm of Technical Rationality as described by Donald A. Schön, inherited from our ancestors. Technical Rationality is still the dominant epistemology of practice. And this way of solving problems is deeply ingrained in the texture of our thinking.


Design processes offer a new way to approach innovation. However they may appear messy because they allow for concurrent actions to happen at the same time and therefore to feed each other right from the start. This is the reason why Apple executives from the entire realisation chain are summoned for each ideation session, that is at the beginning of a new product development cycle and not organised in a programmatic step-by-step type of way. This is something we learn here but not because someone tells us in a lecture hall that this is the right way but because we experience this personally to be the right way. Own experiences are just so much more convincing than those from others. These kick-off ideation session usually start at the design studio. A design studio is not centred around the show of a Powerpoint presentation, it is not centred around financials, risks or budgets, it is not centred around egos or power-maniacs, nor is it centred around insights and market research. The only thing that is relevant is the product and the people for which this product is designed for because design is human-centred. And because ‘errare humanum est’ it allows for failures. When you allow failures you are allowing a learning process and loop backs that correct the setting of problems and processes. At Apple they call it ‘hitting the rewind button’. At MA Innovation management it is an inherent part of the design process.


I believe that there is no better place than the School of Central Saint Martins of Art and Design to learn about innovation for five reasons: art, design, culture, philosophy and fashion. Art constantly pushes the boundaries and explores the adjacent possible. It constantly searches for something new, something that does not exist yet. Design goes way beyond aesthetics, it’s a way of working and collaborating that constantly takes into account things and systems that feed each other.  Design is able to research a problem constantly and autocorrects itself by rewriting the original brief, acknowledging failure along the way and loops back if necessary. The knowledge about human behaviour expressed through culture contextualises inventions and new things so that they become adopted by humans. Philosophy goes beyond culture and the art. It is fundamental and provides a thinking platform of reality from which to start the discovery of the new. Last but not least, fashion is an industry which is constantly seeking for the new and different, but it goes even further than that because it implements these new things constantly. The combination of these five elements makes this masters degree unique in the world. It is the only masters degree which truly understands what innovation is all about and how to make it happen.


This course is for whoever wants to push the boundaries and step into how things are done in this new century. It is a truly new way of viewing reality and creating new human-centred things and systems. My colleagues are extremely divers in terms of cultural background, age, profession and experience. Many of them are designers and this is quite enriching. But you find people who used to be into finance like myself, former country managers as well as marketing professionals. We have all followed Stefan Sagmeister’s example (Ted Talks) and taken a break to recycle our knowledge. If you think that the world is going wrong, then MA Innovation Management might be the right place for you.