Is the technology-led business accelerator failing as the next generation R&D lab?

•May 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is a question governments, NGOs and technology sectors should be seriously asking themselves. It appears most incubators and accelerators behave more like 20th century “product” orphanages then new product/next generation R&D labs. Most collect independent ideas and funnel them through a factory-like system that results in a few “financial investment family adoptions” with the majority left to struggle and slowly die alone. Is this the best post-industrial solution they have?

While ebooks, published best sellers and YouTube videos fuel a growing appetite for “rapid” entrepreneurship, there is a small yet growing movement embracing the lost art of crafting an idea into an invention, and then into an innovation. This trend is just starting to bubble. To catalyze and catapult it, a new “fast-slow-fast” method is needed to quickly generate ideas, methodically invent and then rapidly gain adoption.

My observation and research in innovation processes has led me to ask “ Is there a simple formula (and recipe) that results in recurring innovation through an increase of ideas generated with a better rate of slaughter and/or survival of developed inventions? ”


Some preliminary thoughts to gauge or predict the adoption of an idea or invention, resulting in an innovation:
(H) – Hatch index for # of ideas generated
(K) – Kill index for ideas that fail
(S) – Survival index ideas that get incubated
(W) – Wrangle index for ideas in development
(C) – Commercialization index for inventions
(A) – Adoption score in terms of innovation success
A very rough formula may include [H + (K – S)] ÷ (W -C) = A OR classically [X] ÷ [Y] = Z

The experiment has begun.

Introducing The D Corporation

•February 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Yes. It is time to unveil the concept of the D Corp — or the Design Corporation.

This was one of outputs from an intimate gathering of  global design educators in San Francisco this past weekend. We represented Canada, Australia and the USA. We discussed the value of design for students, stakeholders and society. We also identified the problems and challenges of quantifying the vale of design + business education to both internal and external stakeholders.

This concept has been marinating in my mind, in my sketch books and note pads for years. This gathering of like-minded designer-thinkers, strategic designers, “pracademics” and entrepreneurs was the fertile ground from which to test it out. (And…strategically delivered, in a geography known for its risk takers and venture capitalists looking for the next great app).

So what is the concept and why do we need to act on it now? Timing is everything. As the capital markets and CSR  gave birth to the B Corp or Benefit Corporation (the classification of for-profit new corporate entities), the D Corporation is well positioned to build upon the B Corp and classify both existing and new for-profit corporate entities that demonstrate their practice of big D design as a core business element — benefiting society with form, function and financial return.

The numbers support our quest – and we continue to gather them. Design-infused corporations have demonstrated financial success AND have made the world a better, safer, prettier and more functional place. The design economy is officially upon us.

– Angèle

Musings: Designing the next generation qualitative research method

•January 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I have been diligently working on my PhD research for the past few years, exploring ways to better understand the innovation process with the goal of co-designing a best practice method available for all (open-source).

My proposed method is rooted in qualitative research and combines visual ethnography, visual analytics and strategic design techniques. Visual ethnography allows me to document participant observations — providing me a concrete sense of the participants’ lived and captured experiences—the everyday work, learning, and play involved in ‘doing’ innovation-related work. Visual analytics affords me the opportunity to look at patterns with the aid of computer processing power and tools. Strategic design techniques guide my visual research methods enabling me to document, analyze, understand, and better represent the participants’ interactions in a variety of ways.

To date, it appears I might be building a case (with empirical evidence) for an innovation in qualitative research methods: the design-led contextual inquiry or Design Sessions. The Design Session applies contextual inquiry to the traditional focus group framework. Unlike traditional focus groups which are driven by pre-determined questions and exploration, the Design Session provides strategic design tools and techniques to reveal highly valuable tacit knowledge – knowledge about the participants’ work process that they themselves are not consciously aware of. Tacit knowledge has traditionally been very hard for researchers to uncover. This new qualitative method is highly reliable as it is analyzed and coded by patterns of descriptors and behaviours actively observed in the social, physical and cognitive environments.

As I muse on this re-application or recombination of my industry practice at creative agencies with my academic research activities…. I thought I should share.
More to come – Angèle [January 7, 2015]

Strategic design inside an innovation intermediary

•September 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Innovation is a driving force for change, renewal and improvement of nations, communities and companies. It is most often described as the action or process of developing new or improved products, services or systems and discussed across industry sectors and academic disciplines. How innovation is enabled and catalyzed within specific industries is a growing field of research. Organizations positioned to enable innovation between firms and consumable markets are called innovation intermediaries – they act as agents or brokers on any aspect of the innovation process between two or more parties. Intermediaries focused on knowledge and financial infrastructure support for start-up firms are known as business incubators and accelerators. They play a crucial role in a start-up firm’s success, however the “how”, “why”, “what” and “where” of their mediation remains understudied, modeled and tested. This case examines how one intermediary piloted an innovation process through a strategic design framework in order to improve knowledge production, sharing and mobilization for their start-up client firms. The experimental pilot study involved the design, modeling and testing of strategic design methods with three start-up firms, clients of  a Mexico/Canada creative industries intermediary based in Vancouver, BC. The initial findings from the study suggest that strategic design methods can increase the effectiveness of the development, commercialization and diffusion of innovation. From the participant observation analysis and survey responses, the methods, techniques and activities experienced over two-day sequential workshops were described as transformative.

Download the full case study here: StrategicDesign_CaseStudy_TechBA

More research is recommended to further observe, test and quantify and how this method can also increase the creative industry firms’ prosperity.

Visualizing a creative economy’s social Innovation and culture

•September 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Culture plays a critical role in attracting talent and investment, and in distinguishing a city or country as a dynamic and exciting place to live and work. Defining and measuring how culture influences a creative, knowledge-based economy and how it reflects its innovation agenda, is complicated.

Read the blog post at

What is Marketing Innovation? An exploration of concepts

•March 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” In other words, to have an effective business you must be relevant, valuable and innovative.

On March 6th, The Association of Integrated Marketers (AIM) asked me to join a panel of colleagues to discuss Marketing Innovation. I was joined by Keith Ippel of, Jon Winebrenner of Hurdler Studios and Janis Lanka of Blast Radius to discuss the blurring of the lines between marketing, product design and business innovation.

We each shared our experiences, stories and tips on how to access and make sense of customer data, emerging technology, strategic design and engineering approaches to problems (aka new opportunities) for marketers. Below is my presentation that proposes a few concepts for you to consider if you want to play in the marketing innovation sandbox. [Please note that some of my experimental PhD research is embedded in the deck]


Design Thinking and Strategies: Today’s killer app for Business Innovation

•June 27, 2013 • 1 Comment

I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2013 MoSo conference and wanted to share my presentation. It provides an overview as well as some techniques to develop your design thinking and strategic chops. Hopefully it leads you to become a highly sought-after “strategic designer”. Enjoy. MoSO_DesignStrategiesMoSOConference_DesignStrategies

Speaker at MoSO conference: Design Strategies for Business Innovation

•June 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I will be speaking at MoSo 2013 – the Canadian Mobile & Social Media Conference – which runs from June 12th to the 15th and includes the MoSo Music Festival – in hip Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.MoSOgraphic I will be sharing a sample of my UBC class on Thursday June 13th in the “Start Up” track.
I will introduce the concept and importance of design strategies for business and innovation in today’s technology-mediated knowledge-based economy. Strategic design thinking methods and tools will be shared and I will engage the attendees in playful, practical, interactive techniques that will help them develop and foster a creative problem-solving, assumption-busting and collaborative team-work culture inside their start-ups. If attending, please drop by and say hello!

Introducing the concept of “socio-innovation” theory through Moore’s Law

•April 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Moore’s Law and social theory: observing technology industry’s innovation edict through an interdisciplinary lens.

On March 22, 2013 I presented my first academic lecture at UBC’s Out of the Box: Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Conference and publicly suggested my intent to explore a new “socio-innovation” theory through my research. Here is my abstract:

Accredited to having put silicon in Silicon Valley, Moore’s Law — originally a prediction towards smaller, cheaper, more reliable and ubiquitous computing –has morphed into a quasi-physics law, responsible for fuelling innovation and the information and communication technology revolution. Often described as a predictive guide, the central organizing goal of a multibillion-dollar global technology industry and a bellwether for computer consumption, Moore’s Law has also been defined as a social phenomenon. As one of the most discussed concepts in the computer technology industry, and cited as the influential source for innovation practices, its significance deserves an observation through social-cultural theory and as a socio-technical system.

My presentation explores technology industry’s most eminent innovation edict known as Moore’s Law, through sociologist’s Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory (ANT). ANT provides a rich descriptive method for observation as it focuses on the patterns, structures, relationships and key dynamics of change within Moore’s Law as a socio-technical system. Using documentary research and event analyses, Moore’s Law is examined as an interdisciplinary concept — a complex assemblage comprised of many subtle interrelationships between engineered technologies, business innovation, culture and society. In an effort to produce knowledge in this emerging interdisciplinary field, a new description is proposed for Moore’s Law with the help of a social theory method. This presentation aims to share an socially integrated perspective on the cause and effect of technology innovation in our modern society.  Full article will be published in UBC’s Cutting Edge Journal, Summer 2013.

Whole Brain Thinking leads to Whole Brain Marketing

•March 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I recently presented and facilitated a session for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) on Whole Brain Marketing as a metaphor for Integrated Marketing — connecting left and right brain functions to digital and traditional marketingBCLC_WholeBrainMarketing. The idea was to introduce them to the concept of whole brain thinking as an organization, starting with their marketing departments. Whole brain thinking was chosen because it is a great metaphor to explain why people think and ultimately behave differently — as our individual thinking style impacts how we learn, work, communicate, problem solve, lead and even parent. Click here [BCLC_WholeBrainPresentation2013] to download the pdf version of the presentation.