I'm at the second European Futurist Conference in Lucerne (Central Switzerland), a gathering of 250 or so futurists and forecasters. The conference will really start tomorrow, but there are a couple of "pre-event" workshops and speeches. Here my running notes.
Paul Gardien is the director of new solutions at Philips Design. He is on a videolink from the Netherlands. He starts off by stressing the importance of meaning in technological innovation: "design must start with observing and understanding people". Then he tackles the problem of innovation: "it is very difficult to bring innovation to market". Despite spending large sums on R&D, most corporations have dismally low levels of innovation productivity (according to some estimates, 96% of all new projects fail to meet targets for return on investment). Philips uses an innovation model called "the alchemy of growth", which is based on three horizons: extending and defending the core business; building emerging/new businesses; and create viable longer-term options. "As a company, you need to be able to manage these three horizons simultaneously".
He discusses a design project called "Nebula" (webpage - video) that aimed at figuring out "whether we can make the waking-up experience more pleasant". The designers imagined a system that would project images/themes on the ceiling of the bedroom: pictures, messages (think "I love you"), moving shapes, etc. An interesting research piece, but the way it went to the market was totally different: it became an "ambient experience" applied to hospital environments - used to "lighten up" and make less intimidating MRI scan rooms and other medical spaces, for example; or by giving patients RFID cards programmed with different "moods" so that their room would display the images defined by the card they picked (kids would get more playful visual/lighting environments), etc. Paul says that the first results (referring to the Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Chicago - picture) are encouraging: because kids are less anxious, "the sedation rates for children under 3 are down 30-40 percent; the radiation dosage has been reduced 2-4-fold; etc".
In the Philips approach, the original "Nebula" design project created a new option (distant horizon) that was then turned into a new - although totally different - business opportunity (nearer horizon).