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Week 1: What if? Scratching the Itch

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Ryan Lea:

Open, innovative design engineering is not a solo sport. Diversity of ideas, connection and learning with other designers and users, places to try ideas and find support are a critical part of the process. Our own learning together in this course is a concrete example. It is a reason to find multiple ways of “being together” beyond our physical classroom time and place. Without an “itch to scratch” we simple have software and empty online spaces. But with purpose, that itch, we begin to have possibility. What if we did X or Y?

In this course, we’ll explore a continuum of possibilities of tapping into communities and networks. Ready? Check out this weeks assignments.

Web Discussion

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Shemer:

Purpose: Establish a way to think about “purpose” and develop project purpose statements from among these variety of functions. Instead of starting with a conceptual framework, lets think about real life. Think about someone who wants to design a new innovative urban gardening system, or a safer child-toting bicycle. What do they need to succeed and how can other people in online environments help her succeed? What happens early on? What happens once an idea starts to take form? Let’s imagine we have an idea. Where do we start? Where would YOU start? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Open Innovation marketplaces (crowdsourcing, competitions) “itch” – What online architecture, tools and processes create successful innovation marketplaces? What differentiates these from other types of open innovation online groups and environments? I.e.
  • Design teams– what online architecture, tools and processes support successful design teams? What differentiates these from other types of open innovation online groups and environments?
  • Fund, fun, support-raising (i.e Kickstarter,, etc) – What online architecture, tools and processes successfully help connect designers to funders and investors? What differentiates these from other types of open innovation online groups and environments?
  • Marketing products What online architecture, tools and processes successfully help designers connect their products to markets? What differentiates these from other types of open innovation online groups and environments? (Book: Finding the Sweet Spot)
  • Customer Communities and Networks: Supporting selection and use of products What online architecture, tools and processes successfully help customers productively use the products the designers created for them? What differentiates these from other types of open innovation online groups and environments?

Team Activity

Teamwork Overview

Team Assignments. After our first conversation is underway, we will set the scene for our team projects. You will be assigned to a team you will work with for the rest of this course to learn together and produce, as a way of demonstrating your learning, a multimedia report.

Scene setting: A large global NGO has identified the need to nurture more community owned innovation in support of development goals. They realize that people in developing countries and in other places all have ideas, diverse understandings of challenges and resources. By connecting those with needs and those with ideas into a more global innovation marketplace, they hypothesize that there can be more ground up innovation to help reach the millennium development goals. They have commissioned a group of leading young thinkers at an innovative university to “ground truth” their hypothesis by doing a study of how online groups and networks are supporting innovative design from the ideation through production and user/customer support phase for products and ideas that help communities reach their own development goals. Five teams have been identified to do a research and practice sprint over 8 weeks. The five segments they are exploring include:

  • Innovation marketplaces and contests
  • Global, distributed design teams
  • Global, distributed funding and designer support networks
  • Global marketing networks (with clear links to local marketing mechanisms)
  • User/customer support networks (with clear links to building online → offline connections)

Each team will research existing groups, networks and mechanisms in their area to understand their purpose, membership, technical architecture, social architecture and how they measure their own success. The NGO requests that each team create a multimedia report which can be shared globally with their constituency for feedback of no more than 15 minutes combined running/reading time. The report should be in a format that they can present themselves in a webinar or can be viewed asynchronously. The presentation should be in clear, jargon free English as their constituency is global, many using English as a second language and most will not be familiar with many technological terms.

Teamwork Activity #1

  1. Get to know your team – who they are, their interests, and networks. How can each person be an asset in this project?
  2. Review your thematic area of responsibility and prepare a draft of what you think defines the value and purpose of your innovation area online group/network. What questions do you have?
  3. Identify some exemplar online groups or networks you might use as your research targets.
  4. Identify where your group will work online and post your answers there and then leave us a link here with the URL and group number. Thanks!

Personal Blog Reflection Overview:

Each week you will be given a writing prompt for you to respond to in your blog. The blog is viewable by all the students in this course and the instructors. If you have an existing blog with an RSS feed, you may blog there, tag it commproj12 and let your instructor know the URL of your blog. We can aggregate external blog posts into our site if your blog has an RSS feed. If you don’t know what this is, then just use the blog we offer you! 🙂

Your blog post will be reviewed as part of your final grade, looking for clarity of thought and expression and how well you back up your ideas with evidence (citations, etc.) You will also be asked to visit the blog of two other classmates, one within your team and one outside your team (you can pick, but we suggest you vary these week by week) and read and respond to one of their posts. This might be to reflect on what they wrote, offer ideas or other perspectives, or even a resource if appropriate. Why? Because design is not a solo sport — the networks we weave and interact with are part of our “capital” as designers.

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo by anarchosyn:

Blog Prompt #1: Developing your/our learning agendas

Your first reflective blog post prompt moves from our general idea development to more concrete assessment: What do you/we need and want to learn as you/we explore the application of online communities and networks to open innovation design?

Instead of doing this as a discussion on our Blackboard forum, we are going to use your first blog posts as a way to try out “thinking individually in the open” and see what happens. Go online to your networks and take 24 hours to get their ideas and advice about what we should learn together. Capture the ideas and note where you got them and how you got them (what questions did you ask, what clarifications did they ask for.) This might be via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or any other social network you use.

For fun, you could even ask someone … IN PERSON! Post in your Tumblr blog your top 3-5 learning questions and a reflection on what you asked, who you asked and what happened WHEN you asked your network for their input on your course learning agenda. Please post this by 18:00 Friday, September 14th. Your instructors will summarize and share the collected set of questions next week.

21 comments on “Week 1: What if? Scratching the Itch
  1. Djordan Todorov says:

    Well, lets imagine we have an idea to build a playground in the Zuiderpark. I will certainly not go there with a shovel, some materials, a friend and start construction. I think the most important thing before taking any action is the research. One questionnaire in some of the biggest social websites will do the work. The test will be only for parents and especially those who take their kids out in the park. They will be asked to answer a few questions. Their results will be collected and conclusions will be made. This is how people from the online environments can help us succeed

    • Deyna Celestina says:

      I too believe that research is highly significant when starting something like this, ideas in general need to be very specific. So the first thing I believe needs to be done is assessment and specification of the idea, what do you want the product to do? how is it different from all the other ones? Why would people buy this instead of the competitors? All these questions and more can be answered by collaborating desk and field research. Desk research because a lot of information can be found online. Looking up passed same product and what made them special or not so much, looking up the main reasons why the product is truly needed, it’s most important features and so forth. Field research can be conducted by simply asking people from your target group. You will easily be able to find these people if you specifically know who you’re making the product for. Many times you find people on the streets that stop you and ask if they can conduct an interview with you. I find this really annoying, so this wouldn’t be my strategy. Depending on the idea or product, a few different methods could be conducted such as a simulation. Simulations are fun for the people involved and not that difficult to set up. This is only one of a few methods that could help during field research which is extremely important because you’re speaking directly to the potential users. Innovation contests are also an option.

  2. Maarten Thissen says:

    Interesting Djordan. And what would you do if you couldn’t find the group or community you’re looking for?

  3. I have experience with crowd sourcing in a different way. I have never donated money to online charities (and rarely donate money when people approach me on the street) because I don’t like the idea that I can not see where the money is going. I don’t like this feeling however in order to not feel like a bad person I like to donate my time instead. I’ve had several volunteering jobs in my life and all of them found online. One of them is with an organisation that supports Rotterdam’s free festival, they’re called Thomas and Thomas. They connect workers to the festival designers. Most of the people who sign up are hard working and only expect to be payed in food and drinks. This creates a relaxed working environment which makes it really fun to work there and for the festival designer/organizers it’s great too because they get cheap labor.

    Thomas and Thomas is different because it connects people that didn’t know each other before but share common interests. It allows a crowd to help out and takes out the complications of money and all the nastiness that money brings with it.

  4. Moise Andrei says:

    If you couldn’t find the group or community you need to do your research, you can create one. Invite your contacts and also leave it public so other people can comment.
    You can most likely invite people from online chat communities like Facebook, Twitter, etc.. Should be pretty easy.
    And after the idea starts to take form, you will probably need to assemble a team which will help you brainstorm the next steps.

  5. Johan Bagkoutsa says:

    I think we should start looking at the history on which the idea is based on.
    If we talk about a new urban gadgeting system we have to research the history of this product, when was it most sucesful and what happend at that time that made it so sucesful so we can find the perfect ‘enviroment’ for this idea to develope more and perhaps create a product out of it.

  6. Rolf Moes says:

    Due to curiosity and an active social community awerness, wether online or in real life, one can design the right product. You can see needs of the people, and design a product that fits their unmet desires. Start researching those social networks, first for product devolopment, then for funding and finally for marketing.

  7. Malte Frisch says:

    Well when I have an idea then hopefully I am at home, otherwise I will probably forget it because I won’t write it down. So let’s think about the best case that I am at home and putting my great idea on a piece of paper. After hours/days/weeks of drawing and thinking about the best way of how this product could look like and in the same way being functional I will hopefully get to the solution: a smart designed product.
    Next step for me would be to look for an investor, for instance on the network (Shahab showed me this week) which connects ideas with investors. There will be hopefully someone who is going to invest in my idea and afterwards it’s about doing a prototype and finally getting the production of the new product done. At the end it’s all about marketing and the customer!

  8. In general I can’t easily say what I do when I have an idea. Sometimes the execution is incredibly easy, for example just an email away. But if it is harder than that, explaining the execution gets harder as well. What I basically always do are the following (and not always in the same order): research, visualize, communicate, and start off with a good kickstart. After that the following steps are completely depending on the idea itself, but I always tap into my network to refine my ideas and find more inspiration. That’s it, in short.

  9. busra says:

    If I had an idea for open innovation design, I would first ask myself what my steps would be to actually achieve it in a few years. This will make me have a goal and challenge, which will ‘open’ my curiousity/in. So first step, be curious! Because curiosity is believing, which will make you *research* every possible way(online,events,interviews,questionnaires) to succeed. Then second be active, you can create a few social networking so that others around the globe could help you for inspirations and insights. Maybe they can even join.
    Even though online networking allows you to have a variety of ideas, it is only one source to be active. So, I would probably look for exhibitions or events where people who work on the thematic idea collaborate and share. This way I will have more inspirations/insights and experience after visually talking to them. Again maybe they can help you and join.
    The third, arranging funds probably. And then get started probably.

  10. Tsvetelina Obretenova says:

    When I have an idea I first of all make sure I write it down with as much details as possible. Then if I can make my idea a reality I do whatever I can with the materials I have at home and if it’s not possible for me to do it because I don’t have the materials, equipment and money for it I just leave it on the waiting list until I have the resources I need for it. Basically I try to first write down the idea, visualize it in my mind and then try to make it happen.
    Lets take for instance that an idea that pops up in my mind right now is to make a big new park in the town where I studied before. First of all I would make an internet-based survey about if people actually need a park and if “yes” what would they want it to look like and what should it be there in it. Other people in online environments can definitely help for this project to succeed if they share the idea and survey and take the survey themselves. I would pay extra attention on the mothers’ opinion because they would be the most part of the citizens who are visiting this park with their kids. When I got the idea and the perspective and opinion of the citizens I’d start making a plan for how can I design the park so it can be suitable for people of all ages. After that I would definitely contact the municipality and show them my ideas. This way I could get a permit on whatever I plan to do in the city area. Afterwards I’d try finding sponsors to help me turn my idea into reality.

  11. Felix Scha says:

    When I have an idea I first try to find out what kind of idea it is. I try to gauge whether it is a good idea or some of these which are not.
    Then I would start to ask myself more specific questions:
    Is it perhaps necessary to discuss the idea with a group to find out if the idea is really as good as I imagined?
    Is it realizable and practical or is it rather utopian? (I think it’s just natural that you have unrealizable ideas when you think really open minded)
    Would it be a short- or long-term project?
    How many people do I need to work on this idea?

    After answering these question I’ll probably already know how to continue to deal with this idea.
    As some others said before you can’t write a written in stone recipe how you deal with ideas. But asking yourself questions on this idea would be probably a good start and can lead to the insight of what is the next right step.

  12. Nancy White says:

    I’m curious. How would our answers to these questions change if we shifted from “I am designing” to “we are designing” –> and the we includes end-users. So not just getting their “wish list” but to actually engage with them in the design process?

    • Maarten Thissen says:

      Aye to Nancy. This raises a lot of questions. Is it possible to engage users, designers (or design teams) and maybe even other people to co-create using online media? How do communities react to such questions? Online and off line? Was there already a ‘we are designing’- mindset possible before there were online communities? Are there good and bad examples? I think exploring these lines of questions gets us to the core of how we can benefit from the existence of those networks.

    • Giuliana Orizzonte says:

      I’d include end-users in a project only if I already had a good Plan B.

      Involving a lot of people could lead to an epic experience or a complete failure – that’s because to some people “Team working” means “Others accepting enthusiastically my great ideas”, and, in this kind of situation, it’d be difficult to put them aside.

      Anyway something similar (even if not about designing) happened in the city where I used to live: a small group of mothers created a facebook group since they were unsatisfied about some decisions the municipality took and they were also sick about all the social issues they had to coexist with.

      Their idea became then a concrete success. In a few months thousands of citizens joined the group, meetings and official protests took place.
      In the end some of the goals were reached – of course not all problems can disappear in a couple weeks – but this still felt like a victory to us.

      I know this is quite off topic but in my opinion it’s a very good example of what cooperation can do.

    • Regarding ‘we are designing’ I’d like to mentioin the company We Are Snook. It’s a service design company that is particularly fond of designing (With and For) public services like in health, education, social care, welfare etc. The founder Sarah Drummond writes articles and talks at conferences on a regular basis.
      Check out some of their project work and how they interact with so called ‘end users’ – “Snook’s motto is “transforming people” this means giving them responsibility and empowering people in new ways.”

      • Nancy White says:

        I’m very much in league with that approach, despite Apple’s success. 😉 And I think it is useful to consider what TYPE of product and end user we are working with. Consumer goods may be different than designing a better well pump!

  13. Miguel says:

    Like many people said already, I think it is important to make a good research for the idea to take shape. A lot of this research can simply be done by talking to stakeholders, to figure out what the people involved with the good think about the idea and get an insight that would otherwise be unattainable. Another vital part of the success in product design is market research.
    Personally I believe that the internet has and will continue to result in a great breakthrough in the design industry, because it makes this first phase of design a lot easier. Simply because it allows for information to be shared at a much faster rate and at a global scale, therefore reaching a much larger number of stake holders and not only in a local environment.
    Additionally the internet allows for people from different parts of the world to work on a common project while living thousands of kilometers away. This means that ideally you could have the best industrial designer in the US working with the best mechanical in Germany, working with the best factory in China, etc… Hence you can potentially have the worlds’ best specialists working for a common goal.
    Finally once the product has been produced, marketed and sold, it is very likely that people will share their views on this good online. Which gives the designer good insight on where he can improve his product as well as it distinguishes good product from dysfunctional designs.

    P.S. Sorry i didn’t make my comment earlier but I wasn’t in holland the last 5 days, and I didn’t see the deadline for posting the comments on the website…

  14. East Field 72 (Group 2) says:

    Our group discussed how online networks can help facilitate the development of a project in terms of funds and support raising. To have a successful start, you would have to create awareness about your idea and make useful contacts. Using online networks this has become easier. There are a variety of websites who specialize in different types of investments. for example caters to creative projects, while allows third world countries to gain access to unsecured loans. Early on an entrepreneur should define his/her online platform, in orders to get feedback, make contacts and raise funds. Once the idea is formed and protected (i.e. patented), you can market your project/idea and find your target group.
    In conclusion the online investment communities have granted “the small individual” a chance to break into the world market, without the personal risk of self funding and at the same time without having to sell their idea to a company and loss all/some control of there idea/product.

  15. Milka Mantas says:

    If you want start something but don’t know where you must start – start anywhere. Of course don’t start without competent knowledge of the field you want to take action in. From there you have few options to choose from (I would recommend choosing all of them, since the more knowledge – the better fundamentals will be).
    1) find an online community forum where enthusiasts share their ideas
    2) talk with experts of that field, try emailing, calling. Simply get in touch
    3) do a research on your own – google everything
    At first we get an itch and maybe want to start right ahead and that’s a good idea to do, but in order to do it right we must keep in mind that we will have to evaluate our ideas and change them a little, improve them. This goes as a continuous process as we need constantly to re-evaluate our ideas just after we’ve got new insights from various fields of research.
    My personal experiences with ideas is to share them with others. It is very important, in my humble opinion, to not get demotivated by the crytics of your idea. Even tho sometimes they will make your idea seem totally absurd. But you may need just a little twist or turn to make it wonderful.

    • Nancy White says:

      Good tip about not letting the cynics “demotivate” you… when we work in the “open” we are going to get more of everything — including criticism. My friend used to say “put on your teflon jammies!”

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