I spent last week in London at Imperial College where earlier this year I was appointed adjunct professor in the Innovation Group of the Tanaka Business School. As you can imagine, in such a world-class institution there are quite a number of exciting projects going on. But one in particular caught my attention.
In early June, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art announced the creation of a new center - Design-London - to bring together the disciplines of design, engineering, technology and business to address jointly the challenges of innovation in an increasingly global, competitive economy. Design-London aims to "create an innovation triangle between design (represented by the Royal College of Art), engineering and technology (represented by the Imperial College Faculty of Engineering), and business and management (represented by Imperial's Tanaka Business School)."
Two sides of this triangle are familiar territory. For the last few years I have been immersed in IBM's efforts to bring technology and engineering practices to the world of business and complex organizations in general. As part of this initiative, we have been working with universities to help create a new discipline - Services Sciences is the name we have been using in IBM - to conduct research and develop educational programs to better address these problems. Such a new discipline must invariably bring together technology and engineering with business and management, which is why I chose to become affiliated with two such interdisciplinary departments - MIT's Engineering Systems Division and Imperial College's Innovation Group.
The third leg of this triangle is very intriguing - namely the inclusion of Design and the Royal College of Arts as a full partner in Design-London. What are creative disciplines - and a college of arts, for heaven's sake - doing side-by-side with the hard, analytical disciplines that are charged with pushing the economy into the future - engineering and management, technology and business? You are mixing the people who run companies and build things with the creative types?
But the more I thought about it, the more I started appreciating the sheer brilliance of this move. After all, we are talking about innovation.