Innovation, process, and the role of ‘Discovery’
What is innovation?
I mean, for real, not just as a buzzword on a grant application or something for a CV. I mean, for real. Yes, I said that already. Realness is highly important to me, and in this era especially, so I don’ tmind underscoring it.
I didn’t know this but it was an organic process that led DK to become an innovation consulting boutique, around 2013 or so. Before that, DK was kind of hacking it as a design outfit. No one we worked with, except for our three lovely interns, that is, was formally trained in Graphic Design, yet, magically, people paid us tens of thousands of dollars to come up with smart, clean, modern and classic designs.
They trusted us to make it happen, and deliver strong results that encapsulated the essence of their ‘brand story.’
Why did we know how to do this? Why did we get commission after commission in Seattle, leading to a flourishing studio, a world-class set of people who came and went through our doors sharing their knowledge and stories as collaborators, co-creators, subcontractors, fellow designers, and more? (Realness, I bet that’s why. DK stands for meaning things that DK says it will do, or that we care about. Me, personally, I don’t make promises lightly, nor commitments, and I do what I say I will.) The whole thing was really lovely, now that I reflect, all these years later, here, from this perch on the other side of the world. It was a party, kind of.
Actually the buoyant atmosphere that you could see if you walked by our giant window during a client meeting was exactly the reason we got hired, sometimes, by neighbors who passed or saw our sign or saw that I was curating and hosting a popup art show or party. Stuff like that. Stuff that I love to do even today.
One client had said, ‘It just looks like you guys are having so much fun,’ he said. ‘I want to hire you and see what it’s about.’ This was 2006, in Seattle::
‘I’ll have what she’s having’..
So let me come back to innovation consultation, now, because that is what our Phnom Penh story has been about, largely, since 2014. The brand identity design we had created for NUK was the last chapter of design in that old way, in many ways it just felt like time to stop making things in the old modes since the world was quickly shifting.
Who needs ‘a logo’ in 2020?
You need clarity about who you are, and what you stand for. That hasn’t changed. And that is what we are the best at helping people figure out. ‘Who am I? Like really, for real, when I take away all the mirrors and stop listening to what society says I should be?’
Sound familiar? Well, yeah. You wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t somehow resonating with what we are interested in: self-actualization. Not. For. Everyone.
So let me share with you something I found that has to do with ‘discovery’, and how it relates back to ‘innovation.’
Lots of people are talking about ‘innovation’ right now and I’m going to venture a guess to say the reason why is because, as some of you may know already, the way things are always done is not always the best way.
Sometimes its ineffectual but no one can really say so because of standing hierarchies or hard-baked beliefs.
Sometimes it’s just boring.
There is more to say about all of that, and part of the reason we are writing this blog now (it’s changing, this year, quite a lot) is to look, listen, share, and inform those who are interested in what discovery learning can be, how there’s an actual theory here, behind these movements here at DK and the ways we are bringing people whose paths might never have crossed to intersect, by design.
But briefly. In the moment. There is the poetic moment, of course, that is part of it, but more and more it’s becoming clear that there is way more to the picture than meets the eye, even to us. Because innovation needs to happen if we are going to solve, together, completely listening and learning from one another, to solve, I was saying, quoting and paraphrasing J. Krishnamurthi, who knew this and tried very hard to tell us all to stop being so caught up in our ways of thinking and break free of old patterns and see things fresh, every day, anew. If we can, we can hear each other. If we can do that, we can ‘solve, completely, all our problems.’
Today, an excerpt… it’s from Northeastern University’s blog post on ‘Innovation Process’. I had reached out to the author to do a more full Q&A, but there wasn’t enough follow-through on both ends so I’ll just leave you with this. This bit is what started me off reaching out to the author to ask more…..
The discovery phase is the one companies should spend more time and resources on.
It’s during this phase that ideas are generated and vetted by potential users, and where teams work to discover whether they’re tackling the right problem.
“Where you have a gap right now is to do the upfront better,” Tucker Marion says. Marion directs of the Master of Science in Innovation program. “That entails giving employees the skills to better understand opportunities, to apply different methods of getting information from potential customers, and to achieve better ideas. Simply put, you want to vet more of the best ideas and kick their tires, so to speak.”
This is where ideation techniques, such as brainstorming and prototyping, can be used to a company’s advantage. Ideation—the creative process of generating new ideas—is an important part of the design thinking process, in which organizations focus on uncovering the non-obvious pain points their customers are experiencing and developing new products, services, and business models aligned to their needs.
“We are encouraging firms to put early prototyping back to where it belongs: in discovery,” Marion explains. “By the end of the discovery phase, if I did my homework right, I’ve already tested early prototypes with customers and have a good idea of what my business model is. That’s going to better set me up for this development phase.”
Note: DK have no association with the university, nor are we endorsing them.
About this Event
DK | The Charette is a new series of conversation-starting for online connexion. New and different others can find meaningful discovery and co-discovery opportunities, in ‘The Charette.’ It’s asynchronous, international, small in scale, highly curated, and open-ended. We are exploring. Together, in S P A C E.
The signup information will be shared in September with those who register here to indicate interest. Learn more when you register; we’ll share where to find out the who, what, where, and why. Note: there is a fee to participate.
Hosted by DK’s creative directors, Akira Morita and Dipika Kohli. DK is a studio that focuses on design, design thinking, and innovation since moving to Phnom Penh in 2014. Prior to this, DK specialized in concepting and brand identity design. The studio was started by the directors in Seattle in 2006.
Last night, I was reading a bunch of extraordinarily boring articles online, which made me very tired, and also, reminded me all over again that the internet contains a lot of junk, written by clickbait-seeking who-knows-who, and their poorly paid ‘gig economy’ freelancers who are ‘finding my creative outlet on the side.’ This is sad. And this, too, the feeling that you couldn’t find anything really good to read without being bombarded by popup ads (2000s) or advertorials masquerading as ‘This is my honest opinion’ affiliate-link people, made me feel like starting my own mini-magazine. Which has no endorsements, ads, or BS.
Such a dearth of real-world, real-time information that I could discover, on the spot, also made me feel like hosting parties to get people together and seeing what we could find out, in the real world dimension, too. So that’s part of why I began to convene people in very small circles, in my conversation parties. It used to be really large-scale, but I found out I prefer simplicity. Depth, substance, and progressions over time. With just a few. This is why I make a membership-based thing called S P A C E. It’s so that we—we as in me, and the people who, like me, want what I want, ie quality–could get to the work of talking about things in ways that don’t waste people’s time.
Curating as I go, I’m putting together an August series for Papers, which is going to be about innovation, not in the business-speak sense, but in the live-it-and-talk-from-experience-of-actually-trying-things kind.
It will be published in S P A C E. It’s a special edition of S P A C E. It’s members-only. Memberhip costs. You can find out more about how to become a member of S P A C E at this crowdfunding page, under ‘perks,’ see ‘Basic Membership.’
Here’s a link.
Naming, brand identity design, and showing up to make space—quality space—for the process of people who want to discover somethign new, together, is what we did for NUK Cafe. This was 2014. DK had just opened up our doors in Phnom Penh for business, and this was our first gig.
Since then, five years’ experience of living and learning here in Phnom Penh has given us a chance to flex our creative and intellectual muscles. We’ve gotten into very different kinds of projects, since moving away from typical brand identity deign. Still, I think it’s important to share the jo gurney, and how we got to where we are from where we stated. This post is part of a series of updates to our portfolio.
Discovery, networking, change, and reinvention has led us through a wide set of experiences.
Journeys that, for better or worse, taught us some important lessons. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s a long story.
A new DK portfolio
Really enjoyed the NUK project.
Sharing as I go, now, since DK’s going to open again for design commissions from February 2020. That’s a lot of stuff to anticipate, for DK, but the short story is this. We’ve done things, we’ve been places. We’ve learned. We have more to do.
The work is the work, not the pretty pixels you see at the end of hte design process. If learning by doing and seeing how we get from a blank page and zero idea of what to do towards the finished things, which almost always are a 100% co-created set of designs (yes, we hand you pencils sometimes, and get to work together!), then yeah. Get in touch. This is the place to do that.
We’re really only interested in working with business owners who have 5+ years’ experience. For those interested in solopreneurship or personal branding, perhaps try our 8-week workshop, The Mirror, instead of our heavy-hitting journey of brand identity design for DK (which is also waaaayyy more expensive.) It’s not for everyone. (Still, there are 1 out of every 100 people who ‘get’ us, our approach, and see that there’s value in doing it right the first time, even if that means going through the hard question-asking series of things that we will ask of our clients. Apply to be a part of DK’s brand identity design programs from February. Apply here.)
The original post about the story of how we came to make this design for a cafe in Phnom Penh back in 2014, is below.
Phnom Penh. DK had just arrived to Cambodia.
‘Never imagined we’d stay five years:’ DK.
Emergence, innovation, change: Inventing as we go
Design. Making meaning out of vague and abstract collections of thought. Streamling and clarifying…
I still remember when we did this, for the NUK Cafe, which we named and branded back in 2014.
That was DK’s first gig in Cambodia.
Things have evolved for them quite a bit at NUK, I think they’ve moved on from our original design, but the ‘N’ is still there on the cups that DK’s Dipika Kohli drew.
Which is this:
I really like this story. Of how you start with ‘…’ and get to this design. It’s not a straight line. The creative process moves around and changes a lot, in the middle. It’s how it goes. It’s how we learn, and how we grow, too. Since DK had been doing branding work for more than a decade, it wasn’t hard. (These days we’re not doing branding work, by the way. More consulting. More experiential programs. Like these.)
Of DK’s founders hitting the road in 2013, going in search of ‘I don’t know what it even is yet’, and discovering the first team in Phnom Penh to give DK an open hand to design the way we know how to design. By asking questions. Listening. Learning. Gathering. Percolating. Generally: trusting the process. Why not? It’s worked for us for so many clients in the past.
It makes me happy.
Funny, all that drawing of the ‘N’ and exploring it led to the birth of something completely different.
Things. Turn into things. Don’t they?