Talents and the challenges for education

Teaching and learning innovation will be central in the next few years, enabled also by – though not exclusively – digital technologies. In this evolving scenario, a holistic view on programmes’ learning experience shall be the guiding principle with also great attention paid to learning assessment methods.

 

We discussed it with Marika Arena, Professor of Accounting Finance and Control and Director of the Programme in Management Engineering.

 

The pandemic has been a shock that enabled changes that usually take centuries. What is left of our inheritance?

I think that the biggest heritage is the way the pandemic fostered the diffusion of technological instruments for teaching and learning. Digital technologies already existed before the pandemic, which made their presence pervasive, forcing all of us to use them. Today, we can continue using digital technologies for teaching and learning, taking the best out of these solutions and combining them with face-to-face activities.

On the one hand, digital technologies have facilitated many ordinary activities: they represent a useful support for students involved in international mobility projects, or those who work and cannot attend the lectures regularly. On the other hand, digital technologies provided brand new opportunities.
One interesting example is represented by collaborative classes, where two professors of different universities in different countries design and implement a course together, and the students of the two courses participate to the lectures jointly or collaborate on common activities and projects. This is something really powerful because allows all the students to experience an international environment, even if they are not involved in mobility projects.

 

What is the impact of digital technologies on students’ participation and teaching modes?

Students’ engagement and participation has changed a lot with hybrid teaching (intended as the combination of online and face-to-face teaching). A risk that is inherent to hybrid teaching is the limited participation and engagement of online students compared to those in the classroom, partly because interacting with a student is easier if they are in front of us, partly because online students could be less prone to intervene. In my opinion, this is something that could be detrimental to the learning experience and should be revised in terms of students’ engagement to make sure that they can participate and feel engaged regardless the fruition mode they choose.
This approach is obviously much more difficult since a professor needs to manage two communication channels instead of one.  This is one of the cases in which digital technologies can help us. One simple example is represented by the use of online surveys in class to collect answers and contributions from a large and dispersed audience, or by the use of different collaboration instruments (e.g. online whiteboards).
However, technology is not enough:  in order to obtain engagement and participation, courses need to be at least partially redesigned, often by rethinking the way content is presented, in order to create opportunities for discussion.

 

“Passion in Action”: what is it? Why?

Passion in Action is a “catalogue” of educational activities that students can attend on voluntary basis. These activities aim to support our students to develop transversal, soft and social skills, and to encourage them to nurture their interests, beyond the “standardized” academic offer.

Thanks to Passion in Action, our students can get acquainted with totally new subjects that may be far from their academic path, or they can enrich their knowledge approaching one topic from very different perspectives.

This catalogue of opportunities is dynamic and constantly updated since new courses are proposed on a monthly basis. Hence, it represents a precious resource that allows our students to personalize their path and access a variegated academic offer, with different levels of intensity.

 

What are the future projects for the Management Engineering study course?

Teaching and learning innovation will be central in the next few years. Many professors have already developed innovating initiatives in their own courses, introducing flipped classroom, project-based learning, digital twin, simulations, etc.

However, when it comes to innovating initiatives there are two aspects that in my opinion should be taken into account. First, innovating teaching implies necessarily a reflection on the innovation of the learning assessment methods. Learning assessment is an integral part of a course and its design is strictly connected to the design, organization and administration of the course itself. Second, innovation should be considered and designed also at the Programme level (and not only at course level), with a holistic view of students’ learning experience. This means designing the Programme not only in terms of contents, that obviously are crucial, but also in terms of teaching modes, exposing our students to different approaches and different learning experiences.

 

The manager of the future? They’re a designer

Designers who become managers, managers who learn the tools of design. The “contamination” between these professionals is one of the answers to growing complexity. And it is at the centre of the Master in Strategic Design for Innovation and Transformation, as Claudio Dell’Era and Cabirio Cautela explain

Until a few years ago we were (or we thought we were) able to understand the world by relying on an analytical approach, that is based on well-defined methodologies, logic and categories. Today this is no longer the case. Growing complexity requires a change of pace, with the involvement of new abilities like intuitiveness and creativity. «It is the reason today’s managers can benefit from the adoption of skills offered by design», explains Professor Claudio Dell’Era, who together with Professor Cabirio Cautela is co-director of the Master in Strategic design for Innovation and Transformation at MIP Politecnico di Milano. «Indeed, the challenges of the world of work require a strengthened managerial figure, more contemporary and increasingly in demand».

The evolution of designers

At the same time, during the last twenty years designers themselves have seen their role gradually evolve. «On one hand they have gone from being technical figures to increasingly become managers. Just think of automotive, for example, with Chris Bangle in BMW and Walter De Silva in Audi, and then in all those sectors in which the language of the product, its structure, its meaning have an important impact on positioning» explains Cautela. «On the other hand, designers have started to become increasingly present in the marketing departments of companies, becoming fundamental not so much in product design, as in new offer solutions, that is the integrated process between product, service, communication and distribution».

Humans at the centre

The reason a company regulated on the principles of design ends up having a competitive advantage is the centrality of the human element. «Design presupposes a bottom-up involvement of employees. Only in this way is it possible to give meaning to one’s work, putting human values  before more functional and technical ones», explains Dell’Era. «This is an increasingly indispensable dynamic, a necessity more than a choice». The repercussions are also positive for users: «The new recipe for innovation must push us to create products, services and solutions that make peoples’ life experiences more pleasing. They are the people that we must put at the centre of our reflections».

Good design sells better

A point of view that is also echoed in the considerations of Cautela: «Good design makes you sell more, but above all it makes you sell better.   Because it starts from a vision of people, and not a corporate one, because it puts at the centre change, emerging cultural models, relations. Business is a consequence, not the end». And the workers involved also benefit from this: «Employee engagement is greater if it is tied to a deep motivation, to a purpose. That is not the profit, or a higher salary. The design leader must convey precisely this concept: the aim is to change peoples’ lives in a certain way. An approach that allows to retain human resources who truly believe in the corporate purpose, giving them an opportunity to enhance their creativity». 

The master’s degree  

These are the issues and the challenges which the Master in Strategic Design for Innovation and Transformation tries to address, offering training to managers who want to acquire design tools and to designers that instead feel a need for stronger managerial training. «The question we started from is:  who is the design leader?», explains Cautela. «The answer is that it is not someone who only has an ability to proactively offer solutions, but who also instils new values in the organization. To define this role, we used four thematic blocks: the first involves design as a lens with which to approach innovation, to give value to the products also for the meaning they embody. The second theme is that of leadership and engagement, as we have said. The third is that of data supporting creativity: not big data, but “thick” data, qualitative (feelings, reactions) data that provides information on individuals dealings with objects. Lastly, the fourth block involves the issue of the integration of creativity in organizations. How can it be done? It is a question that is often faced in big corporations, because the integration of new creative processes is always complex. But, if done well, it can lead to big benefits».

 

Launch of the Executive PhD in Innovation in collaboration with Tsinghua University

The presence of the School of Management in China is all set to be strengthened by a recently launched new project, the Executive PhD in Innovation,  a programme that is part of the China-Italy Design Innovation Hub. Protagonists of this, the biggest European innovation hub, Politecnico di Milano and Tsinghua University are proactive in the research and training of the talents and innovative leaders of the future.

Collaboration between Politecnico di Milano and Tsinghua University officially started in February 2017 with foundation of the China-Italy Design Innovation Hub in the presence of Sergio Mattarella and Xi Jinping, and, maturing over the years, it has led to the launch of this Executive PhD.

This Executive PhD will bring together Chinese and Italian academic excellences in an innovative programme, designed to teach senior profiles to creatively combine years of experience with applied research to generate ideas and innovative solutions, and also to help growth in businesspeople and managers who promote innovation by integrating managerial competences and scientific thinking.

The opening ceremony was held on 10 September, in the presence of Prof. Ferruccio Resta, Rector of Politecnico di Milano, Prof. Giuliano Noci, Vice Rector for China and Prof. Paolo Trucco, Project Director.
A chance to highlight the importance of collaboration between the two universities and recall significant moments from Italy-China relations.

Poste Italiane partners with the students of the School of Management for a challenge on innovation

Students of the Politecnico di Milano School of Management present innovative solutions in response to the challenges posed by Poste Italiane in three specific areas of interest: rethinking the workplace after the pandemic, devising innovative digital payment solutions, and strengthening brand reputation.
 

The challenge, organised by Poste Italiane and the Politecnico di Milano School of Management, involved about 220 students of the Leadership&Innovation course of the Laurea Magistrale (equivalent to a Master of Science) in Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering. Split into 30 teams, the aim of the project was to bridge the gap between academia and the business world.

Rethinking the workplace of the future

The students were asked to focus on a very complex issue far removed from their everyday life: imagining the post-pandemic workplace, the workspaces of the future, so as to respond to new work needs increasingly centred on the use of digital collaboration technologies and remote working.
Drawing inspiration from the world’s most innovative companies, the students conjured up work environments that promote collaboration through spaces encouraging informal relationships among employees, so as to foster social cohesion – something that the pandemic has penalised considerably.

Solutions to encourage digital payments

The students also tackled another important issue, that of digital payments, which represent one of the most important innovations in the process of digitisation, for the growth not just of Poste Italiane but of the country as a whole.
The digital payment solutions developed focus particularly on environmental and sustainability issues by rewarding, for example, merchants who choose to join green projects. Poste Italiane places particular importance on this topic, and indeed has adopted the new Postepay Green card to kick off the conversion of payment products to environmentally friendly materials.
Many projects have also highlighted the importance of involving not only consumers and merchants, but also local associations with a view to promoting and financing local and neighbourhood initiatives. Moreover, the purchase of a particular service or product expresses personal tastes and preferences and therefore one’s own identity projected towards the outside world.

All the projects reveal the importance of engagement as a lever for reaching both merchants and customers, with some students going so far as to suggest the use of gamification to maintain a high level of engagement.

Strengthening brand reputation

Finally, the students had to tackle the challenge of strengthening the reputation of Poste Italiane among the younger Generation Z, with whom the Politecnico students themselves could easily identify, many of them being born between 1995 and 2001. The goal of this challenge was to convey a new corporate image, making it attractive for young users, both for professional purposes and for training and guidance. Several solutions were submitted: platforms and applications aimed at prompting knowledge of Poste Italiane among those external to the company; new methods of engagement through, for example, on-site events; and even the possibility of using new social channels to reach the target audience more easily.

“Innovation with a human touch”: now online the new issue of SOMeMagazine

SOMe Issue #6 has been released, the eMagazine of our School which shares stories, points of view and projects around key themes of our mission.

This issue is focused on “Innovation with a human touch”, discussing the role of human and humanities in technological progress and innovation.

We interviewed  Giovanni Valente, who explains how much human and social sciences are essential to face any innovative challenge in the scientific and technological field, making the interdisciplinary approach fundamental in scientific studies.

Man must be at the centre of digital transformation and technologies have to be developed for and not instead of humans, as Raffaella Cagliano, Claudio Dell’Era and Stefano Magistretti tell in their editorials about Industry 4.0 and Design Thinking.

But can technological innovation be truly on a human scale? Giovanni Miragliotta tries to answer to this question considering how much new technologies deeply changed our society and work.

Finally, we feature some of our recent research ”Stories”: the economic impact of climate change, the re-use of electronic waste to create eco-compatible products, the distribution of Venture Capital in Europe.

 

 

To read SOMe’s #6 click here.

To receive it directly in your inbox, please sign up here.

Previous issues of SOMe:

  • # 1 “Sustainability – Beyond good deeds, a good deal?”
  • Special Issue Covid-19 – “Global transformation, ubiquitous responses
  • #2 “Being entrepreneurial in a high-tech world”
  • #3 “New connections in the post-covid era”
  • #4 “Multidisciplinarity: a new discipline”
  • #5 “Inclusion: shaping a better society for all”

Technology and innovation, on a human scale

Scientific progress, the availability of technical facilities, cross-fertilisation between different research communities and combined innovation are giving us an unstoppable progression of human capabilities. But how much, and more importantly, which innovation is really on a human scale?

 

Giovanni Miragliotta, Professor of Advanced Planning, Co-Director of the Industry 4.0 Observatory, Politecnico di Milano

 

Everywhere we look, as citizens and as researchers, we read about the “magnifiche sorti e progressive[1]” that, by means of new technologies, are changing our society and our lives. From the more familiar ones, such as broadband communication networks, to the more advanced, such as bioengineering, to those operating behind the scenes, such as cryptography, it all comes together to the point where it is almost difficult to realise the potential for change in the research and innovation system we have built up in developed countries. This potential is realised from time to time by some unexpected  discontinuities, such as the pandemic we are currently experiencing, which, by combining the various existing innovations, show us how the way we work, teach, plan and treat can be overturned in just a few months. A very powerful reflection in this sense, also and above all because it comes from a man of letters and not from a scientist, is the one recently published by Alessandro Baricco[2].

This occasion, which has shown us the extent and speed of possible change, can be used to elaborate on what innovation is at a human scale; it more important than ever to do so right now, in view of what is being developed in universities and laboratories all over the world, since the forthcoming technological breakthroughs could materialise a change, which many believe (and I am one of them) could be disruptive to the very core of our society.

If we consider western democratic states as the main scope, our society rests on a set of pillars, a mix of worldview ideology, morals and common sense, which form the glue. Some technological innovations (first and foremost bioengineering and artificial intelligence) are, so to speak, on a collision course with these pillars, and could lead to new societies, the extent to which they will be on a human scale is difficult to predict, at least as we currently interpret that scale.

Let’s us consider the central role that the work plays in the structure of society, even just focusing on its economic value and disregard the psychological aspects or that of personal fulfilment; for the first time in history we are beginning to glimpse a possible future in which not only we can no longer predict what our children’s jobs will be in 30 years’ time, but we are beginning to doubt that there may even be any jobs left. In an increasing number of specific fields of work (=Narrow AI), in fact, machines have already achieved superhuman abilities and, as you probably know, there is a huge debate about the balance between jobs created and lost. The analyses carried out in the Artificial Intelligence Observatory, at least for the next decade, seem to indicate a positive scenario[3], but if we extend the horizon of analysis, we cannot exclude a situation in which the demand for human labour will be much lower, made unprofitable or useless by the new skills of machines[4].  In the context of fragile monetary and fiscal equilibrium of nations, a significant alteration in the labour market could represent a strong element of instability.

Changing the technology of choice, the advent of biotechnology could in the near future bring about such major changes that the very foundations of society will be shaken: how will the concept of the family evolve if it were normal for human beings to live to be 120 years old, with youth lasting over 40 years?  What will happen when the wealthier classes, in addition to being able to afford better traditional health care, can also afford to take steps to improve their genetic set-up in a way that cannot be matched by most people? Will we, for the first time in history, observe a divergence in our species, with a (small) fraction of the population having more capable, durable and long-lasting “hardware” (body + brain) than the majority of the population?

These examples make us think about the extent of possible economic and social change, but they do not yet seem to affect the ideological foundations of the society we have built in the West since the American and French revolutions, namely the profound belief in the value of freedom and the uniqueness and individuality of the person. But what if, in principle, by observing all the interactions of a person with their environment and their fellow human beings, it were possible to predict exactly what their feelings and needs would be? What would happen if Google or Facebook or others, on the strength of the immense amount of data they collect about us, knew how to advise us on the right book, the right job, the right investment, the right wife, the right preventive surgery, much better than we would know how to do on our own, confused and lost in an endless number of important decisions to be taken dozens of times in our (very long) lives? Would we then still be “free”? And if there is any freedom left, should we make use of it, or would it not be more convenient to delegate our decisions to a “life advisor” technology that would achieve to us a much higher probability of success and happiness than we could do with our own hands?

This last scenario, envisaged by many thinkers, opens up a radical rethinking of the founding principles of our society, first and foremost the liberal principle, leading to outcomes that could range from a further loosening of existing points of reference (in the wake of Bauman’s liquidity) to its total opposite, a very rigid technocracy.

The point is always the same: it is not possible to make predictions of any kind and, after all, the little that needs to be known, of pure speculation on the future, has already been written. These reflections, on the contrary, bring us to a very great responsibility, that of remaining very vigilant over the changes, even the slight ones, that technological innovation is imprinting on our society.

A future awaits us which can only be on a human scale if we will care about building it.

 

 

Reading notes

This reflection arises, and can be further developed, by drawing on the insights of the following authors:

  • Yuval Harari: I recommend the whole trilogy on man’s past, future and present;
  • Mark Tegmar, “Life 3.0”, and the debate at the Future of life Institute;
  • Zygmunt Bauman, in particular his key text “Liquid Modernity”.

 

 


[1] Citation of the Italian romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi, “magnificent destiny and progressions”

[2] Alessandro Baricco, “Five years in one”, https://www.ilpost.it/2021/05/28/baricco-2025/

[3] See report Artificial Intelligence Observatory, “On your marks”, ed. 2019.

[4] Consider, for example, “A 3D printed car which is designed by AI”, www.thereviewstories.com/czinger-21c-ai-3d-printed-car/

 

Innovation: the key pillar for future managers

A year has now passed since I introduced myself with my first article for the Polimi School of Management community. Back then, I had only high hopes for the path I was about to undertake. Today, as a result of the new knowledge and skills that I have acquired, I have many more convictions. One of the main focuses of MIP’s MBA Programs is innovation, which is covered in many courses, such as the last one I attended: Innovation Strategy, held by Dean Federico Frattini, Prof. Josip Kotlar and Prof. Reinhard Prügl.But first, what is innovation?

In the current economic and social context, innovation is one of the main development drivers and a determining factor for business success. It is talked about a lot, but all too often without its true meaning being known. My favorite definition of innovation is that of the Hungarian biochemist, Albert Szent-Györgyi:

“Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”

One of the most interesting aspects is that this “innovation awareness” no longer belongs only to large companies: in fact, we are witnessing a process of a progressive “democratization of innovation”, also driven by the most recent paradigms, such as Open Innovation, which are multiplying the opportunities to innovate, even in smaller companies. This is, above all, thanks to the lower cost of access to innovative solutions, ideas and skills, a privilege historically reserved for large multinationals.

This is the historic moment when every company should ask itself: “Am I doing things right?” And to achieve this awareness, one cannot only look inside, but also (and above all) to the continuously developing economic and social context that surrounds us.

As the famous inventor, Charles Franklin Kettering, once said: “If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.” And this is absolutely true! If the world around us changes, we, too, must change accordingly. And if we haven’t done it yet, we are probably already lagging behind.

Successfully innovating, however, is not always easy. There are some enabling factors that can help achieve the desired goal.

The first of these is having good vision, or the ability of the top management to steer their company effectively towards the chosen goal.

Another important key factor is the culture of failure. While it is essential to have clear methods to avoid the commitment of resources in favor of initiatives that will not be successful, it is equally essential to activate mechanisms for capturing knowledge and learning from cases of company failure.

Finally, the last fundamental factor is to have a well-defined strategy, focused on specific objectives. Frenzy and instinctive decisions can be very dangerous. For example, introducing a very powerful technology, but one which you do not know what to do with, or do not have the skills to manage, can have a negative impact on the performance of an organization.

In this regard, from what emerges from a recent study conducted by PwC, 54% of the managers interviewed argue that within innovative companies there is a struggle to bridge the gap between business strategy and innovation strategy. Both strategies must move in the same direction. Even better, they should be two sides of a single model geared towards achieving economic results over time. And this is even more achievable through the concept of Open Innovation, theorized by the US economist, Henry Chesbrough, in the essay “The era of open innovation”.    According to Chesbrough, “Companies can and must make use of external ideas, as well as internal ones, and access markets internally and externally if they want to progress in their technological skills”. Adopting an open approach, therefore, means innovating by leveraging one’s talents within the organization, but also involving various actors outside the company boundaries.

The result? A much more democratic and much more widespread access to new technologies.

Now, the last question which could come to your mind is: “Ok, in the MIP classes you talk a lot about innovation. Do you really put it into practice, though?”

The answer is yes, if you’re willing to. MIP offers you access to research articles, events and webinars about innovation. Most of all, however, it provides all the alumni with the chance to be supported in the creation and development of deep tech startups, providing services for acceleration, access to funding, mentorship, and advice, thanks to the strong connection to PoliHub, the Innovation Park & Startup Accelerator of the Politecnico di Milano. So what we learn is not just the concept of innovation, but how to make it real. And that’s important, because, quoting Goethe:

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

 

About the author
Marco Di Salvio

Student of the International Part Time MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano.
Industrial Engineer currently working @ Gucci as WW Supply & Demand Planner, based in Florence.
Tech passionate, Cinema-lover, Sports addicted.
Solving the world’s problems one spreadsheet at a time.

 

Innovative design and technology for an inclusive society: new Joint Research Center

Creating a more ‘smart’ and inclusive world: this is the scope of the new Joint Research Center ‘Innovative design and technology for an inclusive society’ created through a five-year agreement between the Politecnico di Milano, NTT DATA, and POLI.Design, with the participation of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management.

The new Research Center will see the work of NTT DATA — a leading Japanese multinational company in consultation and the IT sector — POLI.Design — a company of reference for post-graduate education that acts as a hinge between the university, institutions, companies and work — and, for the Politecnico, the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, the Department of Design, and the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering.

The idea of working together grew out of not only a desire to make joint studies on innovative technological issues, but also sharing important values for promotion together, such as equality, diversity, and inclusion.

One of the collaboration’s primary goals is to use the most advanced technological and design tools synergistically to initiate a cultural transformation, to ‘focus on people’, supporting the inclusive development of society and placing technology at the service of individuals.

The collaboration establishes financing for activities and research projects related to different areas and topics of primary importance to create and realize ‘transparent’ technological solutions with impacts on our daily lives: Smart Mobility, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Internet of Humans, Diversity Management, Universal Design, Design for Social Benefit, Product and Service Design

In particular, the contribution of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering will focus on the issues of Data Analytics and Technology Tools for Diversity and Inclusion in close collaboration with the Department of Electronics, Electronics, Information and Bioengineering at the Politecnico di Milano.

For more information, read the press release.

Practicing Continuous Innovation in Digital Ecosystems

Luca Gastaldi, Associate Professor, Politecnico di Milano
Jeannette Visser-Groeneveld, Executive Secretary CINet, University of Twente
Harry Boer, Professor of Aalborg University

On 20-22 September 2020, the 21st CINet Conference on Practicing Continuous Innovation in Digital Ecosystems was held. The conference was preceded by the 20th CINet PhD workshop.

The event was hosted by the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano (Luca Gastaldi, Mariano Corso, Daniel Trabucchi, Stefano Magistretti and Rosella Onofrio) but took place virtually, due to the Corona pandemic.

The PhD workshop attracted 16 students from six different countries, who presented and discussed their research designs and early findings. Reflecting current hot topics in industry and science, the studies discussed included digital technologies, maturity and transformation, business model innovation, and digital platforms.

In the conference, the same topics were on the top of the agenda. In total, the 110 attendants from 16 countries worldwide, presented twelve papers on Value Creation in Digital Ecosystems, and an additional four papers on (Innovation in) Ecosystems. Other popular topics included Design Thinking and Continuous Innovation (eight papers), Innovation through Digitalization (eleven papers), and Healthcare Innovation (four papers). Furthermore, considering emerging societal issues in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a special session was held on Innovation and Resilience, aimed at stimulating new research avenues and knowledge on how innovation management approaches are interlinked with resilience in organizations and how resilience can become a focal aspect in these approaches and innovation outcomes

Keynote addresses were delivered by Professor Wim Vanhaverbeke (Surrey Business School, United Kingdom) who spoke on Digital Technologies and the Role of Innovation Ecosystem Management: Examples from Agriculture and Healthcare, and Professor Roberto Verganti (Politecnico di Milano, Italy and Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden), who shared his thoughts on Data and Platforms in the New Normal.

Having an entirely virtual conference cum workshop was an entirely new experience for all participants. The digital platform created by Luca Gastaldi and his team functioned perfectly, without any glitch. The conference program was fully navigable, and gave direct access to the session rooms, the plenary rooms, and the papers collected in the conference proceedings. Attendance to the sessions was quite comparable to that of “normal”, physical, conference and the same held for the interactions between the participants.

All in all, a very and, perhaps, unexpectedly, good experience. Yet, many participants agreed that going virtual can be done quite effectively and provide a good climate for presentations and discussions, but does not exceed the benefits of face-to-face interactions. Hopefully, the 22nd CINet Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, 12-14 September 2021 brings us back to the old “normal”.

Exploring Innovation and Design as Leadership: the IDeaLs project

The world of Innovation Management is being disrupted, as companies all over the world explore new ways to develop new products and services. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and other digital technologies, the role of people in innovation processes is increasingly uncertain.

IDeaLs was born to explore how companies can achieve Innovation through collective Design activities and shared forms of Leadership.

Founded by the Politecnico di Milano and the Centre for Creative Leadership, IDeaLs is a research platform that unites Academics and Managers to discover new ways of engaging people in activities of collaborative design to Make Innovation Happen.

Over the past two years, IDeaLs has collaborated with nine international organisations operating in diverse sectors, ranging from utilities to logistic providers, healthcare organisations, and sportswear.
For each organisation joining the platform, a core team of 2-3 managers would bring an innovation challenge to the research team. Over a time period of 4-6 months, each challenge was analysed, and multiple workshops performed with the partner organisation. At the end of the time frame, the results of the research, and the impact in the organization, were shared among all partners in a collective final event.

In line with the requests made by managers, IDeaLs aims to develop new tools and methodologies to support organisations during their transformation processes. Over the past years, IDeaLs has developed a “Story-telling” experience: upon briefing by managers, through a series of workshops, participants designed their own transformation story, a roadmap for both individual and collective change. This experience had a positive effect on all partner organisations: firstly, every participant committed to three concrete actions to perform, resulting in an average of 120 small, autonomous steps towards the destination outlined by the managers; and secondly, the workshops increased the levels of engagement towards innovation, which was constantly monitored by the research team.

Ultimately, IDeaLs represents a community of “innovation leaders”, who discuss relevant topics on leadership and innovation, besides learning about the case-studies of the other companies. Three yearly events are organised in which members discuss their insights, share success stories, and examine their organisations’ approaches to innovation.

As a founder of the platform, the School of Management is contributing both to consulting the companies and to the research.

First of all, the activities are related to the design of new methods and tools to foster collaboration among individuals in an innovation setting. Second, the platform aims to give a methodological contribution, developing a measurement instrument which makes it possible to assess the strategic readiness of an organisation to pursue an innovative direction.

From a research perspective, the team is involved in the design of research directions for each year and is currently developing three separate Ph.D. programs related to the platform. The School of Management is further responsible for the dissemination of the knowledge acquired, through a yearly booklet which describes the partners’ projects, as well as presenting the theorical insights in international conferences and publishing the same in academic journals.

When it comes to us as individuals, we are often overwhelmed by innovations and know very well that the problem goes far beyond the process we apply to make them happen. The world of innovation was so focused on finding the perfect innovation process, but it forgot the people who run it.[1] IDeaLs aims to bring the person back to the centre, as a driver of organisational innovation.


The Research Team – http://www.ideals.polimi.it/

Scientific Directors: prof. Roberto Verganti; Prof. Tommaso Buganza; Joseph Press, Ph.D.
Research Team: Paola Bellis; Silvia Magnanini; Daniel Trabucchi, Ph.D.; Federico P. Zasa

_________________________________

[1] Source: IDeaLs Booklet 2019