Play – create – innovate: have fun, make money

Have you ever seen a keyboard made from bananas? Playing with technology can stimulate creative thinking: a much needed quality in the field of Service Innovation.

banana piano from http://www.kickstarter.com

The picture shows a keyboard made from bananas, one example of what a creative thinker could do with Makey Makey; an invention kit which can be used to turn everyday objects into touchpads and link them to the internet.

Makey Makey was supported by Kickstarter a funding platform for creative projects including art, design, fashion, music and technology. Other innovative projects include a mask to make your dreams more lucid and a 3D printer kit that anyone can build.

‘From play to innovation’ is the title of a course at Stanford University where engineering students “Learn to enhance the innovation process with playfulness”. Students learn theory and practice and how to apply “design thinking to promote innovation in the corporate world.”

In the book ‘Think, play, do’ Dodgson, Gann and Salter examine the idea of ‘play’ as part of the design process through a series of commercial case studies. They identify the use of ‘Innovation Technology’, such as modelling and simulation, visualisation, virtual reality and rapid prototyping, as tools for playing with alternative designs. They also discuss the importance of “combining craft and code” (p 135) i.e. having people with deep knowledge and experience of their discipline as well as the ability to play with the innovation technology.

‘Think, play, do’ includes a section called ‘measuring play’ (p.109) which the authors recognise as being difficult but suggest that one “partial measure of play activities relates to the expenditure on design”.  Play can increase creativity and decrease the time taken to weigh up alternative designs; thus potentially reducing the cost and increasing the quality of the chosen design.

Play – create – innovate: have fun and (potentially) make money!

Reference:   Dodgson, M., Gann, D., Salter, A.,  2005,Think, play, do, technology, innovation and organization,  Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-926809-6

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Babis Theodoulidis for pointing me to Makey Makey

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Involving Customers in Service Innovation

In this case study a medium-sized Finnish insurance company recognised that customers can be more than just recipients of innovation delivered by the provider; they can also be sources of innovation. Decisions about new services previously based on systematically gathered information were felt to be too product oriented so working with a team of researchers (details below) the company sought to develop a new approach that would involve customers in the innovation process. Several insurance services were  used to test the new process model.

customers not so happy! but can they innovate?

One of the test cases chosen was to develop next generation health insurance that would better correspond to the changing needs of healthcare. A series of workshops and a range of techniques were employed including:

  • Building a future-oriented concept of health insurance: two separate workshops were held; one for a group of customers, one for a group of company representatives and the differences in outcome compared.
  • Using readymade cards that illustrate twelve trends related to healthcare and asking customers to select three trends that they thought most important for health future insurance.
  • Concept formulation using physical materials (modelling pastes, sticks etc) to create a 3D model of the next generation health insurance for the year 2025.

The researchers noted that; “Interestingly, there was a clear difference in the ways in which the customers and the company built their concepts. The former concentrated on modelling their health related social network, whereas the latter built a network including customers as ‘members’ but controlled by the company”

One outcome from this process of ideation was that the workshops provided ‘completely new information’ for the company bringing forward issues that cannot be reached through more traditional methods.  Issues included:

  • “The versatility of customer situations in relation to the service
  • The ignorance of customers about the content of available services
  • The importance of solutions instead of detailed pieces of information
  • The significance of customer care throughout the lifespan of customership
  • The decisive role of service encounters when customers evaluate the success of the service”

So can customers help innovate or be part of the innovation process?

In this case customer involvement enabled the insurance company to gain valuable insights into customer issues which may influence the design of future insurance services.

Further information about the case and the resulting service innovation process model can be found in Involving Customers in the Service Innovation Process.

The researchers involved in this Case were:

Marja Toivonen, Director, VVT Technical Research Centre, Finland

Mari Holopainen and TiinaTuominen , BIT Research Centre, Aalto University, Finland

Virtual World Graduation Service

Highly immersive virtual worlds such as Second Life present an exciting opportunity for innovation in the delivery of educational services. Life-like avatars of students meet in a purpose build environment, their movements are controlled remotely from a desktop and their voices are the students own voices transmitted using headsets.

The virtual world graduation service involved students on a part-time Executive MBA programme at Manchester Business School who were physically located throughout the world. All were senior executives and travelling to the UK for a graduation ceremony was not cost effective, designing a graduation ceremony in Second Life proved an attractive and fun alternative. The ceremony took place in

the ante-room

 two ‘rooms’ developed for this purpose: a small ante-room where delegates and guests arrive, are welcomed, and to which they can return at the end of the award ceremony; and the main ‘hall’ where the actual ceremony was conducted (the Whitworth Room). Designs by Corporation Pop. Life-like avatars and gowns were provided appropriate to the status of the dignitaries who included the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Business School. The first event was held in late 2009 and has been repeated twice a year since. As for future innovations in education, virtual world technology needs to be improved, avatars need to be easier to manipulate; scalability improved; and a gaming standard of sophistication achieved. If you have any experience/comments of VW in delivering educational services I would love to hear from you.Further information about this case can be found in Using Virtual World Technology to Deliver Educational Services

The Whitworth Room

dignitaries in procession