c4di Project Evaluation Report.
Malins, Julian Paul
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The purpose of this review is to evaluate the work of the center for Design and Innovation, an ERDF and SEEKIT funded project established by the Robert Gordon University in October 2008. The project aimed to assist SMEs in Scotland to become more competitive, increase profits, and improve efficiency through the application of design thinking. This review sets out the aims and objectives of the original project, describes the methodological approach adopted by the project team and assesses the effectiveness and impact of the project. Key findings • The methodological approach adopted by the project was based on design thinking, which was helpful in encouraging companies to adopt a shift in the way in which they perceived their customer’s needs. • It was found that establishing a common purpose amongst stakeholders was an essential starting point and that using visual imagery and key words, as part of group activities was a useful method for establishing the core values that represented the company and could be used as criteria for making any subsequent decisions. Workshops using a play/game metaphor helped companies to overcome barriers to creative thinking. • Short introductions to DT were found be useful to stimulate new ideas. The ‘Byte Size’ taster workshops were very popular, allowing large number of companies to become familiar with the concept of Service Design Thinking. One to two day workshops with individual companies focused on their own issues produced more significant impacts, the most important of which was in the companies approach to innovative thinking. This cultural shift is difficult to measure other than anecdotally but potentially has the most lasting impact making future innovations more likely. • Many SMEs are unwilling to invest in innovation particularly during a recession. Business support agencies have been relatively slow to acknowledge the value of design as a driver of innovation despite the evident success of initiatives like the Design Council’s Designing Demand programme. One reason for this may be the lack of quantitative data to justify an appropriate return on investment and the uncertain time scale for seeing results. It may also be difficult to directly attribute improvements in innovation to a particular design intervention. Overall conclusion • The argument for the value of design as a driver for innovation has been clearly made and this is now embedded in SE and TSB and recognised as an important way forward. There is a tension between universities supporting this type of work as opposed to private companies undertaking it, or public sector business support organisations delivering this form of innovation support. Universities have a role to support knowledge exchange however they also have a responsibility to not undercut the market and thus prevent private companies delivering a viable and sustainable service. Organisations such as SE are not funded to support universities and therefore this again can make it difficult to fund the type of work undertaken by c4di. 9 • It is important that the intervention is well facilitated and the resources are of a high quality. Developing an experiential approach to working with companies is likely to have a lasting impact and is preferable to a one-off PowerPoint presentation no matter how eminent the presenter. Summary recommendations • Innovation support would be more valuable if extended over a period of time so that the company is revisited periodically. • Developing workshop resources that uses a play or game analogy and adopting a lo-fidelity prototyping approach makes it possible for people to engage more readily and innovate earlier. • Adopting a co-design approach involving key stakeholders is a very useful way of identifying opportunities for design improvement in both product and service delivery