Professional Course Fuels Creativity of Technology Leaders in India

On the first day of class in Mumbai, India, technology leaders were immediately forced out of their comfort zone and exposed to the possibility of publicly making mistakes. Accustomed to delegating product development responsibilities to less senior employees, the C-suite leaders were told to go to local coffee shops, hand random customers a coffee cup, and ask about the experience of holding the cup. In addition to gathering feedback on mechanics and usability, the leaders also had to ask customers about their emotional reaction to holding the cup. Matthew Kressy, Senior Lecturer, Director and Founder at MIT Integrated Design & Management (IDM), and lead instructor for the new MIT Professional Education Professional Certificate Program course, Design-Driven Innovation, explains why: “If you understand those needs and emotions in great detail, solutions come much more easily. Most of the time the problem is that we create solutions to problems that don’t accurately reflect the true problem of the stakeholder.”

In 2018, the technology industry led the way with the largest percentage of spending dedicated to global research and development at 22.5%, with the healthcare (21.7%) and automotive (16%) industries close behind. With such high spending devoted to development, why do so many companies still struggle to produce great designs?

Kressy stresses how important it is for companies to offer products with emotional value in addition to functional value. Emotional value is multifaceted, helping drive consumers’ purchasing decisions. He believes in interdisciplinary, collaborative, design-driven product development derived from deep user research, creative concept generation, and rapid prototype iteration. He is passionate about the implementation of these elements in the design process. Since 1999, Kressy has co-taught collaborative courses in product design and development at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Harvard Business School.

“The importance of Design-Driven Innovation is about creating good leaders who are thoughtful in their approach to providing vision, creating strategy, encouraging collaboration, and building vibrant and happy organizations that are excited to tackle very difficult challenges together. We teach a strategy that maximizes the ability to recognize opportunities and potential, while at the same time making sure these strategies are feasible and will generate a positive financial impact for the organization,” Kressy said.

Kressy’s multidisciplinary approach integrates three keys to product development that help connect with consumers’ needs and emotions, and ultimately, their wallets:

  1. Design — create products consumers find desirable.
  2. Engineering — create products that are feasible, robust, repeatable, and affordable.
  3. Business — create products that are viable, and can make a profit.

Design-Driven Innovation incorporates several exercises that help students achieve outcomes they may not have achieved in the past,” Kressy said. “One of the very unique aspects of the program is that we force students to be very hands-on in a very diverse set of participants so they get to cross pollinate in the way they think and interact with each other. That relates to MIT’s powerful philosophy of Mens et Manus — Mind and Hand. We teach theory and concepts, and then have people practice that with their hands and actually make and create something that demonstrates the power of those concepts.”

By leading students through this design-driven and multidisciplinary process, Kressy provides exposure to a powerful organizational framework and toolset that can help leaders consistently create successful solutions. This also helps create a better understanding of how to lead the transition to a design-driven innovative culture within an organization, to create a corporate culture that supports innovation and accepts risk, and to build consensus and provide vision to peers and management.