Is it possible to innovate innovation? Carnegie Mellon University believes so and today formally launched the Integrated Innovation Institute, an unprecedented market-focused center designed to speed the pace of innovation by producing professional master’s degree graduates with the skills and know-how to accelerate new product and service creation.
Tackling organizations’ need to “innovate or die,” the institute cross-trains students in the values, principles, thinking and methods of engineering, design and business — the three disciplines considered to be the core of innovation.
Drawing on Carnegie Mellon’s top-ranked College of Engineering, School of Design and Tepper School of Business, the institute’s origins lie in the groundbreaking principles of Carnegie Mellon Professor and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, a founding father of artificial intelligence who also established the basis for a science of design. Simon helped lay the foundation for cognitive science, crossed disciplinary boundaries of half a dozen fields and set a precedent for collaborative research.
“Innovation can be studied, formalized, taught — and continuously improved upon with new knowledge,” said institute co-director Jonathan Cagan, the Ladd Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. “We’ve elevated collaboration to a new plane, and what we’re doing could only come out of Carnegie Mellon’s rich history of interdisciplinary work.”
The Integrated Innovation Institute comes amid much global debate on the need to “fix” innovation. A recent study by Accenture found two dominant obstacles: a conservative approach focusing on line-extension renovation rather than a broad portfolio of bold ideas; and a lack of systematic, enterprise-wide processes capable of timely commercialization of inventions into products or services at scale.
“Global business challenges demand a new breed of executive talent. Our integrated innovation tenets force students outside their previous training and comfort zones, creating hybrid thinkers and doers,” said institute co-director Peter Boatwright, the Carnegie Bosch Professor of Marketing at the Tepper School of Business. “We've been moving toward this pivotal point for years, training students in a deeply integrated and pragmatic method that directly addresses the barriers inhibiting speed in industry.”
Carnegie Mellon has provided a dedicated building at the entrance to the Pittsburgh campus, with other facilities in Silicon Valley and New York City. Programs in Silicon Valley and New York City reflect their respective “market ecosystems” yet are interconnected through the innovation-focused cross- training.
Making Things That Make Things Happen
The Integrated Innovation Institute is a dynamic next-generation hub of practical creativity, producing results in every dimension of innovation training and exploration across academia, business and social purpose. At the core are three professional master’s degrees: the Master of Integrated Innovation for Products and Services (Pittsburgh, founded in 2003); the Master of Science in Software Management (Silicon Valley, founded in 2004), the only program to focus on innovation related to the continuum of the software field; and a professional master’s degree planned for fall 2015 as part of Carnegie Mellon’s new Integrated Media Program at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Augmenting these degrees is a pilot innovation laboratory where graduate student teams tackle corporate-sponsored cases with real-world rigor and accountability, and where institute-funded projects explore vexing societal problems. The institute also conducts proprietary applied research, and extends its training through executive education, customized company programs and open-enrollment consortia.
Carnegie Mellon’s model of integrated innovation upends the traditional linear, silo approach to new product development, and enhances the effectiveness of thinking and results. Sponsors have patented or brought to market products that originated in team projects. In other instances, the integrated innovation model has prompted partner companies to revisit their fundamental processes to understand customers’ needs, identify market opportunities and make crucial go/no-go decisions earlier.
“Increasingly, organizations recognize the impact that engineers, designers and marketers who understand one another’s thinking can have working together at the ‘fuzzy front end’ of a project,” said institute co-director Eric Anderson, an associate professor in the School of Design and associate dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Sponsors report that our graduates are a market-level above, with the agility to step into any range of scenarios, in any industry and immediately apply their knowledge.”
Sponsoring Projects with a Social Purpose; Understanding Millennials
In keeping with the institute’s purpose and philosophy that there are no limitations to how integrated innovation can be applied, its leaders are committed to applying their skills beyond industry to resolving pressing societal issues. Institute-sponsored, social-purpose endeavors are among each roster of capstone projects. A recent example is a prototype for a self-sustainable purification system that utilizes the weight of water to destroy harmful bacteria. Such a system could potentially provide clean, safe and affordable drinking water to millions of people living in areas with poor sanitation conditions.
“As a former sponsor, I saw firsthand how the impact of integrated innovation far surpassed most approaches to developing workable ideas for customer markets,” said Donna Sturgess, the institute’s executive-in-residence, president of Buyology Inc. and former global head of innovation at GlaxoSmithKline. “Why not extend our model of integrated innovation to solving some of society’s intractable problems?”
Boatwright and Sturgess lead the Millennial Segmentation Study, the first of the institute’s proprietary research projects. The continuing study examines values, purchase motivations, buying interests and behaviors of 2,000 men and women in the U.S. aged 18-34. Plans call for extending the survey to China and India, which will create a global database of this important demographic.
The institute’s leaders are recognized for contributions to their fields — and for their efforts to advance innovation. Boatwright and Cagan are the authors of “Built to Love,” and with Craig Vogel, “The Design of Things to Come.” Cagan and Vogel also authored “Creating Breakthrough Products.” Anderson recently judged the prestigious National Design Awards sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Sturgess is the author of “Eyeballs Out” and many other books and publications.
With the launch of the Integrated Innovation Institute, Anderson, Boatwright and Cagan believe that Carnegie Mellon’s tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration will carry forward through generations of “elite integrated innovators” who will transform the world.