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Rethinking is fundamental part of innovation: Powell

[Herald Design Forum 2016]

Rethinking is fundamental part of innovation: Powell

In the eyes of British industrial designer Dick Powell, design is an elixir of life for businesses.


Design and innovation -- the two ingredients considered paramount to any success in business nowadays -- make things better for individuals, communities, companies as well as the environment, the cofounder of design innovation consulting firm Seymourpowell and chairman of D&AD has argued. 


Powell has for the last several decades transformed the boundaries of design to create functional, yet aesthetic products, including a self-ride lawnmower that gives a workout while cutting the grass and airline seats that bend along the physical desire of passengers. 


As enterprises sap their entrepreneurialism amid sagging worldwide demand, Powell has maintained that “innovation gives clients an edge that translates into margins, profits and successes.”


“You’ve got to embrace change,” Powell said at the Herald Design Forum 2016 held at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Tuesday. 


Dick Powell, co-founder of Seymourpowell, speaks at the Herald Design Forum 2016 at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Tuesday. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)


Whereas designers “live and breathe” change and “hate the status quo,” he asserted, “businesses hate change because it costs money.”


“Instead of shaking the jelly pudding, which goes back to the way it was exactly, you have got to carve up the jelly,” he said, portending a truly “creative destruction.”


Giving groundbreaking counsel to leading companies worldwide, including Ford, Virgin, Tefal, Casio, Samsung and KT Corp., Seymourpowell has championed conceptualizing “meta-products” that are environmentally friendly, yet affordable luxuries.


In the corporate scheme of things, entrepreneurs have a rough idea of what they want and need, but “not a good idea” what sort of products they should be making for the future, he contested.


“That’s why you need precision in realizing your dream. The key to getting this vision sorted out is creativity,” said Powell. 


“You need to have the breath of vision without sinking in granular details. That requires the foresight of people, technology and business.”


By “looking rather than seeing” and “forensically investigating human behavior,” designers and businesspeople can spin fresh ideas into innovation and new products, he said.


Dick Powell, co-founder of Seymourpowell, speaks at the Herald Design Forum 2016 at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Tuesday. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald) 



“Rethinking is a fundamental factor of innovation,” Powell said, citing his reconfiguring of an iron to make it more user-friendly and appealing, a devise that secured six patents and quickly increased its market share.


“Innovation is rarely about big ideas, rather a series of small ideas brought together in new and different ways.”


Calling this process one of “simplexity” -- synthesizing complexity into simplicity through innovation and design, Powell said branding comes from products or services rather than invented images.


In the age of sustainable development, he added, “green” innovation and design are critical to the life of our planet as well as the longevity of corporations.


“Businesspeople tend to think ‘why,’ putting blocks at every stage to prevent great innovation from happening,” he said.


“But designers think ‘why not.’ We can provide visions for industries to drive their business to success. We can tell the world where to go.”


By Joel Lee (