Learning At Fast Horse: Dr. Barry Kudrowitz On Innovation

August 4, 2015
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Barry Kudrowitz, a professor from the U of M College of Design and director of its product innovation program, speaks at a Fast Horse Brown Ale Series learning event on July 16.

Some of the smartest organizations are made up of people who aren’t afraid to get outside their own heads and group mindsets and open up to new ideas. I’m happy to say that Fast Horse is one of these organizations. One of the many ways that we learn as an organization is by hosting learning sessions (we like to call them “Brown Ale Sessions” because they usually take place in the late afternoon over a nice cold one).

In March, we hosted a panel of Twin Cities journalists who focus on technology and innovation in order to better understand the regional tech scene and what was on their reporting radar.

In June, we held our first-ever Fast Horse lunchtime book club, where a group of Ponies led a discussion of key takeaways from one of Jörg’s favorite books, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind by Al Reis and Jack Trout. We also had an in-house case study to present — we talked about how it related to our agency’s work with Wausau Tile (now known as Wausau Made and Tectura, as a direct result of this work).

In July, our learning environment looked a little more like a traditional classroom — except with beer, of course. Dr. Barry Kudrowitz, a professor from the University of Minnesota who directs the new program in product design in the College of Design, paid a visit to the agency to speak to us about innovation. Like any good professor, Kudrowitz involved all of us in the discussion, as he gave us example after of example showing that innovation is often incremental. Radical innovation is rare.

And like any good lecturer, Kudrowitz provoked many questions. We thought about the role of science fiction in pushing innovative technologies (Jen Vinson wrote a previous Peepshow post on her connections between “Star Trek” and the professor’s visit). We wondered about why tiny incremental innovation is sometimes trumped by human behavior and cultural norms (I’m not going to lie – we talked more about the toilet than I ever imagined doing at work). We tried to imagine instances of radical innovation (and realized what a rarity it really is).

Although we spend much of our time at Fast Horse coming up with creative ideas for our clients to better connect with their audiences and consumers, we don’t often get the opportunity to enact innovation in the physical world. (A couple of us have been talking about changing this and purposely spending time innovating a yet-to-be-determined object or process – perhaps over lunch, and perhaps we’ll call it “Lunch-o-vation.)”

Regardless, it is precisely this kind of thinking that Kudrowitz pushed in our learning session that leads to creative idea generation, and sure, maybe even a little incremental innovation that we have not even realized yet.

We thank him for being such a great catalyst for us and hope he returns sometime this year with one of his classes from the U of M. We’d love to host a whole room full of innovators at work and continue to learn from the professor.