You can change the world without using an app

A discussion of new business models turned into a surprising debate about design’s role in integrating technology, nature and society.

”Of course you can create growth and innovation with technology but the more provoking question is, if you can do it without.” “Innovation happens when the new attacks the old and see who wins.” “The new comes from people who have nothing to loose.” “The problem is, that the established companies don’t buy new companies, but instead spend all their money on consultants.” “We need to make more trouble. The new generation don’t want to work for Danske Bank, they want to create a new bank.”

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  • Future Design Seminar
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These were some of the points and views from three speakers and a crowd of participants, eager to join the discussion at Danish Design Centre’s seminar ‘Future Design – technology, design and new partnerships’ held on Tuesday 16. December.

A broad group of established designers, people from academia, start-up communities and the public sector had come to challenge and give their perspectives on DDC’s report ‘New Innovation Actors’. The report studies the landscape of innovation and looks, among other things, at the challenges that established companies face in terms of handling the demands of future innovation as well as what new partnerships and competences they are looking for.

“What we need might not be a deep interest in technology, it might be a deep interest in nature.”

Let nature be the inspiration

Tobias Lau, partner in Social Action was the first of the three speakers to present and started out by stating: “The time of consumption is over; the time for meaningful, long tern growth has begun.” He wanted to introduce the concept of nature to the debate and challenge the increasing focus on technology. “Don’t get me wrong. I think technology is great, of course, but it shouldn’t be starting point of innovation, and it shouldn’t be a requirement for calling something innovative,” he said.

The price of bits keeps dropping, he pointed out, while the price of minerals and other natural resources are rising dramatically. “What we need might not be a deep interest in technology, it might be a deep interest in nature,” he suggested.

The question was whether technology is what drives innovation or what enables us to create the solutions that we want for our society.

Interaction Designer Vanessa Carpenter from Idemolab followed up on this in her presentation by calling technology a great sketching tool. “We use electronics as a design material. We sketch with technology to test and explore opportunities,” she said, and continued: “The red thread in what we do is design; how people relate to each other, how they relate to technology and how we get people to create and engage in their world.”

Old school troublemaker

The last presentation of the day was by internet entrepreneur and self proclaimed troublemaker Thomas Madsen-Mygdal. He also pointed to some old fashioned virtues in his view on how our innovation landscape will flourish in the future. “To me it’s not a matter of inventing new business models, it is a matter of making them work. The role of the new is to challenge the old. And either the new will die, it will be bought by the established or it will completely take over. It’s good old fashioned biology.”

“Innovation happens when the new attacks the old and see who wins.”

But it’s a problem, he believes, that the established companies spend all their money on consultants instead of buying new companies that have development something they need. That would motivate start-ups and create many more new companies and this is what we need to support.

The debate took a surprising philosophical turn and as Christian Bason, CEO of DDC, who was moderator through the day, summed up, the question might be: Are we in an era right now where there’s experimentation going on in new models for business, new models for governance; rethinking interaction between nature, technology and society? And in terms of how design and designers might play a role in integrating those big complex domains.