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Found this article on the Business Week site during my time in grad school. I was working on my thesis and was quite happy to discover that the powers that be are discussing design. I guess we will have to see if it takes root though. [Original Link on Business Week]

This year’s World Economic Forum features a roster of programs seeking to bring business up to speed on new thinking about innovation

The World Economic Forum, held annually in Davos, Switzerland, is a high-altitude, high-profile gathering of the globe’s business and political elites. Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bill Gates is a regular, as are Google’s (GOOG) Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page, who throw an amazing party at the Kirchner Museum every year. Bill Clinton usually hosts a late-night gab-fest, and last year it seemed like half of U.S. Congress and much of the Bush Cabinet were participating in sessions on trade and foreign policy.
Attendees at this year’s meeting, which begins on Jan. 24, will see many familiar faces. But they’ll also notice an influx of people no one would have thought qualified to join a few years ago: designers. Davos 2006, in fact, is shaping up to be a very different kind of forum. In addition to the standard topics, an unprecedented 22 sessions will focus on the general theme of “Innovation, Creativity & Design Strategy.”

A special series of six workshops is planned for CEOs. IDEO President Tim Brown will lead one on “Building a Culture of Innovation.” Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto will lead another on talent — “Who’s Choosing Whom?” Other workshops cover “What Creativity Can Do for You” and “A World Without Intellectual Property.” And I’m moderating a panel discussion on “Prepping for the Creative Economy.”

BEYOND LIP SERVICE. Frankly, it doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to a serious discussion about the use of design thinking as a management methodology. As Roger Martin puts it: “I think the reason innovation and design has percolated to the top of the WEF agenda is that big companies the world over have woken up to the fact that they have organized and controlled their firms to the point of stultification by using ERP [enterprise-resource planning], CRM [customer-relationship management], TQM [total quality management], and other reliability-oriented systems. They need to think in a fundamentally different way to reinvigorate their firms, and so they’re reaching out to design and innovation.”

In short, innovation, creativity, design — whatever you want to call it — is the new Six Sigma.

The overarching question shaping the Davos program is, How do you operationalize innovation? How do you go beyond giving lip service to creativity, which is where 95% of all U.S. corporations are today, to enabling managers and employees to truly innovate on a regular, sustained basis.

The truth is, very few top managers have a realistic idea of just how much it will cost them to shift from a culture of cost and quality measurement to a culture of continuous innovation. Nor do they have a realistic idea of how to get there. This is especially true within service companies. With its unparalleled concentration of intelligence, experience, and power, Davos could be the catalyst that corporate innovation needs.

WIKI KEY? One of the most interesting discussions will be the one on “Externalizing Innovation & Creativity.” This will deal with open-source innovation, and it’s really a question of just how much companies should “wiki” their approaches.

Eric von Hippel, professor and head of Technological Innovation & Entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, will be there to discuss the benefits and risks in outsourcing innovation, the sectors most likely to try it, and the most successful models. He explains, for instance, why Procter & Gamble’s (PG) outsourcing model works, while Motorola’s (MOT) experience in Taiwan backfired (its partner designed and built Motorola cell phones and then went to China to sell its own branded products that competed with Motorola). Clearly, participants will want to talk about the risk to intellectual property and the importance of finding a trusted partner in outsourcing innovation.

Von Hippel will join writer and consultant John Hagel and John Kao, CEO of Kao & Co., in a session called “Making Innovation Real.” The group will evaluate which new innovation practices bring the most value: Social networking? Idea markets? Innovation centers?

BRAIN ROTATION. In other highlights, Nike’s (NKE) Phil Knight will join Daniel Vasella, CEO of Novartis (NVS), Yale President Richard Levin, Ana Botin of Mexico’s Grupo Santander, SAP (SAP) CEO Henning Kagermann, and Merck (MRK) CEO Richard Clark for the somewhat redundantly named session, “Innovating in Innovation.” This is the nitty gritty of innovation. What are the new models, and how are they being implemented? Is it better to be a fast follower than a radical innovator? (Surprise, Apple (AAPL) was a fast follower in the digital-music field with the iPod.) What risks are associated with open innovation models? And what kind of metrics will promote, rather than crush, creativity?

The Davos program offers a meaningful snapshot — meaning, it reflects just how little most companies know about innovation, even as they embrace it as essential to their future growth and competitive strength. Successfully innovating companies can be counted on two hands, and really creative companies can be counted on one.

Yet, the global management paradigm is clearly shifting from left to right brain thinking. The new management mantra of the 21st century is breakthrough innovation via creative-design thinking. It’s replacing the old business-value proposition of incremental improvement through control that’s still being taught in most B-schools and peddled by most consulting companies (sorry, but in this era of dramatic change, just what is the value of a degree in business “administration?”).

I call this new intellectual disjuncture in management theory The Big Shift. Davos ’06 ratifies the change.