I interviewed Jack Anderson who discussed Emergence of Design Science as a Next Step to Traditional Drivers of Innovation?
1. Please provide a brief background of yourself
I have managed people and programs and products for over thirty years now. Most of this work has been in information technology or technology organizations. I am currently a senior innovation capability strategist in Chevron’s Global Innovation Services Group. My goal in Chevron is to leverage innovative tools, techniques, processes to enable emerging technology transfer, solve business problems, and advance Chevron’s ingenuity capability. I’m also a principal of the Innovation Value Institute, which, the abbreviation is IVI or IV. I chair an innovation-management working group that’s composed of industry practitioners like me and researchers and academics. It’s a very interesting world. The bulk of my career, as I mentioned earlier, has been in technology organizations, but I have always been interested in the people side of business, and I have a real passion for leadership and technology and creativity in the workplace and working with people in programs to help reach their goals. You might even see this from a negative side, I’m really interested, also, in what demotivates people and what gets in the way. Business-and-technology-focused innovation has been my career focus. I have been blessed to have a this job focus for the past thirteen, fourteen years now. That’s a little bit about my background.
2. How does collaboration in business play a role in innovation?
I’m going talk first about collaboration and business and how that plays a role. When I look at what we do—and I’ll focus on what I’m currently working on at Chevron—but I mentioned earlier that I’m a part of the Innovation Value Institute, and, through that, we’re looking across companies at best practices for innovation and how that works, but I will focus on some of my direct experience at Chevron specifically.
We’re very lucky here that we have a corporate value of ingenuity. How do you overcome barriers. How do you break through problems? One of the core values or one of the core descriptors in that ingenuity value has to do with collaboration and communicating internally and externally so that you can actually work together and overcome things together. Funny thing about innovation and work, a lot of people think that innovation is kind of serendipitous, it just kind of happens. It’s just like part of who we are as human beings to be agile, adaptive, creative, innovative.
While I do believe that’s true, the problem is that when you try to do something, especially in a business environment, you likely need to work with other people, and very unlikely you’re producing some product or service for yourself; you're doing it with someone else. What I’m getting at is, when you’re involved with more than one person, you need to kind of look at it, especially in the complex corporations like I’ve been working in in my career. You need to have processes, procedures by which people can easily communicate, collaborate, creatively respond to things together.
One of the core things we are looking at here at Chevron is collaborative processes, collaborative tools, collaborative behaviors. It’s interesting, Dustin, you asked the question: How does collaboration play in the business deals? I would say you cannot have business if you don’t collaborate. I mean, to put it into practical terms, we’re looking at ways by which we can share ideas together.
How can we leverage and build upon the ideas of others? How can we build upon the learning of others? It’s a very interesting process by which if we openly can share ideas and you're able to look at them, well, maybe we’re able to collaborate on a problem together and look at that from our different perspectives. These are things that help overcome challenges. And look at what we’re trying to do in terms of business: speed up the supply chain, speed up the decision-making processes that happen and so forth. All of this, I believe, comes from the core of collaborative process.
Let me go back to what I do at Chevron here. I work with a team. Our focus is around processes and tools to bring people together, overcome barriers, or think creatively about problems. We looked at processes and tools to make that happen. A lot of our tools and processes are around design thinking and how we can draw out ideas but do them in a purposeful way designed with the customer, the end user, in mind. We leveraged an innovation cycle that goes from clearly understanding a problem to observing how that problem enacts in the real workplace with real customers, to then ideating and then prototyping the ideas that surface from the ideation and then working on practices to help get these things into production easily and kinda shepherd them through. That’s the cycle that we use. You could picture there are tools and practices in each one of those steps, and I’m always out there scanning for more and better practices, best practices.
And I have to say, something I’ve really learned in my career. I’m doing this now at Chevron for the last five years, and before that I worked for twenty years at Intel. Before that I worked at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company way back when, and now that’s just Lockheed Martin or whatever, but, anyhow, here my age goes. In all these creative companies and so forth and all these complex companies, practices by which we can enable and move things forward with quality, with excellence, and now, in most recent years, in ingenious and creative and adaptable ways are very, very, very important.
One thing that I’ve learned is that you can go out and find great tools, but you need to adapt them or modify things to your own environment. I currently work in a very conservative company, as opposed to when I worked at Intel, which was a very more radical company. Some of the practices I used at Intel wouldn’t fly here, or some of the language maybe even used wouldn’t fly in a conservative company like this. For example, there are practices by which you can share ideas or you can test ideas, and in a company like Intel, failure was an okay thing. If you tested something and it failed fast, you’d actually save a lot. It’s not really a failure if you learn.
That whole in-your-face kind of get it out there, try it, don’t worry if it’s perfect, that approach needs to be modified a little bit in a conservative company like I work in right now. We have a real focus here on safety and an injury-free environment, so there’s a whole undertone that it’s very important in an industry like this, where there can be problems because there are some areas of our work that’s very dangerous. At any rate, we don’t tend to go the in-your-face route here, but we do retain the learn from trials that don’t go the way you thought. I don’t know, what would I say? That’s a pretty high-level example. My core point is: You need to adapt things to the different environments by which you work.
3. Can you talk about the emergence of design science as a next step to traditional drivers of innovation?
I mentioned our design cycle, our innovation cycle that’s based on design thinking, and if you go out and look at the literature, there’s a ton of thought about this design thinking and how you can enact that in a work environment. I have been watching the last couple of years the emergence of design science, which is a very interesting thing.
Design science, which looks at the way the human mind thinks about and creatively adapts and designs things—that artistic part of our brain -- the science part of it is, are there things we can do to make things more predictable, more measurable, more scientific. Think about that. If we were able to tap in to some of our designed thinking processes and be able to implement activities that we could have more predictable outcomes, maybe we could tighten in the way that we receive input about ideas in more scientific ways. Maybe when we do ideation processes, we can leverage some of the latest scientific thinking around the way the mind works and so forth.
Anyway, I’m beginning to be pretty convinced that design science is the next step where our innovative processes, practices, tools are going. I’m not saying we are going to move away from design thinking; it’s been very, very, very helpful and is framing things for innovation practitioners. But I believe that there’s something that we can do to tighten it up now. We’ve been kind of cowboys running innovative processes for a long time, and it is something we can do with design science.
I’m currently exploring that and I’d like to put out a call to action for anyone that is listening to this or reading this. If you’d like to talk to me about this, I’m really interested in anyone interested in this topic of design science.
4. What are your recommendations?
My last point was going to be about what are my recommendations. I mentioned my design cycle, the innovation cycle. It goes from truly having ways of getting a group and people to understand the problem and then observe it in the real environment with customers and then ideate on solutions. The next process is prototyping and then move to production.
The thing that I’m spending a lot of time now in is that observation step. How can we get people, especially technical people or functional experts who are trying to come up with better solutions for problems or customer needs, how can we help them observe the actual problem in a real environment better? Observation skills and observation techniques are something I’d highly recommend people focus on.
There are some problems when you think about standard ways that people observe something. It’s only natural if I’m an expert in something, if I’m a tech expert or a functional expert, if I’m looking at something, I’m gonna look at it through the lens of my bias of my expertise. Sometimes what that provides is the same old answers or kind of predictable answers from what I already know. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but if you find that your organization is coming up with the same old stuff or whatever, it might be because of that bias of expertise.
There are other biases that we naturally have that we try to train people to overcome, and we have processes by which we can help them. Just think out of the box or observe, even, out of the box. There are some great techniques out there, but this is also an area that I’m very, very interested in focusing on, and I’ll put out the challenge to everyone listening to or reading this. If you have good observation techniques or you're interested in talking to me about this and thinking it out with me, I really would love to do that.
Before I go too much further, please feel free to contact me at my e-mail. My e-mail is Jack.Anderson@Chevron.com. Please contact me if anything I said piques interest. I’m specifically looking for communications and ideas around this design-science thing that I briefly brought up. I’m very interested in observation techniques.
Dustin, you asked for me to talk about my recommendations. I read that as current recommendations, so what am I working on currently or what would I recommend a group do? It’s the observation skills.
I do have some other worries. My biggest worry that I think will carry me the rest of my life is around the ability of people to communicate their ideas so that other people can get it. I think this is probably another thing that’s basic in human nature. The most successful people who are creative in the workforce or who have been given breakthroughs have some kind of ability to take their idea and make it so understandable that I can use it, you know?
How can we help make that better? In particular, I keep mentioning experts. I work with technical experts, and God bless technical experts because they tend to be analytical folks. Tend to be. Some are not; most are, though. Analytical people sometimes have a hard time articulating their ideas, especially in inspiring ways. I’m also focusing on that.
I imagine that one’s probably gonna carry me the rest of my life, working on that. I hope the observation stuff, though—’cause there are great techniques out there—is an easier nut to crack. We’re making some breakthroughs with my work right now, but really interested in more of that.
Okay, with that, I’m going to close for now. As I said when I first started, I’m super eager to answer more questions or say more if you’d like me to clarify something more. And I am very serious about it: Anyone listening or hearing this, please e-mail me, and I’ll be happy to follow up with you. Thank you very much. Bye now.
About Jack Anderson
Senior innovation Capability
Strategist at Chevron