If you want a more innovative team, assemble a group of kids. Preferably a group from the fourth grade or lower. Up to the fourth grade, kids are fearless innovators, willing to define problems and design solutions at the drop of a Lego brick. But by the time they finish the fourth grade, either by accident, by design, or by virtue of a highly structured educational system, innovative thinking has been trained out of them. At least this is the point of view of David Kelly, the innovative brains behind IDEO, who is also a professor atStanfordUniversity’s Design school. As he sees it, the world is not necessarily divided into creative innovators and hungry users because anyone can be innovative – if only. His goal is to help humans recapture that youthful enthusiasm for creativity in problem solving.
At a glance, it appears that the guiding philosophy at the design school is that innovation happens through problem solving and collaboration across subjects. Consequently, the design school assembles design teams from the fields of education, medicine, business and others. After defining a problem, a team brainstorms solutions before building prototypes and eventually testing them. While conducting research on problems, teams often realize that the original assumptions were not suitable to the situation at hand. At this point an entirely new set of problems and solutions may come up. This is part of their “fail early and often,” philosophy. To date they’ve collaborated on several “real-world projects outside the classroom.” Ultimately, innovative thinking isn’t an academic thing. Even established corporations can make use of this philosophy to design innovative products and experiences for their customers. Or else they could hire third graders – didn’t someone say, “it’s elementary?”