497-236: Design for Technological Innovation (IPRO Powered by PeopleFlo)

Meeting Days/Time
Thursday from 1:50 pm to 4:30 pm
Jeremy Alexis (ID) (alexis@id.iit.edu)
Appropriate Majors
All interested students welcome, Applied Mathematics, Business, Computer Engineering, Computer Information Systems, Computer Science, Consumer Research/Analytics/Communication, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Technology and Management, Information Technology and Management, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology
Technological Innovation

Many of the large manufacturing and technology firms we work with feel the majority of recent products and services are created in response to direct customer requests. This has led to incremental, repair-service kinds of solutions. These organizations would like to move beyond simply addressing customer requests to identifying breakthrough opportunities based on a deeper understanding of users and their unarticulated needs and a higher degree of challenge – in other words technical innovation. Faculty at the Institute of Design and the team at PeopleFlo have developed a process that addresses this issue for manufacturing and technology companies – this IPRO will give us the opportunity to teach the approach to future innovators.

Our approach supplements the traditional design-thinking framework with tools tailored to engineering-based innovation and combines it with lean manufacturing techniques making it appropriate for technical projects. It includes four phases and one high level principle.

  • Problem framing: we will teach how to frame problems as user and business problems, not just technology problems.  The problem will be challenging – develop something twice as good at half the cost.
  • Research: you will conduct two types of research. User research will investigate needs and issues with end users and customers. Technical exploration research will identify analogous technologies and solutions that can help address the challenge.
  • Define alternatives: we will use creativity techniques to generate a set of solutions to the challenge.
  • Design / build / test cycle: the final half of the semester will focus on prototyping and testing a variety of solutions. Through iteration you will develop a feasible solution.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration: Although not a separate section in the course, we will use the project and the teaching modules to highlight how a design driven process can help interdisciplinary teams work more effectively through shared process, vocabulary, and objectives.

IPRO team members will be organized in multiple agile teams of three-to-five students. The teams will be presented with a real world technical challenge that currently does not have a solution. It will be the team’s responsibility to develop a solution that is half the cost and twice as good. The teams will work through the four phases of the process, while also learning how to work in an interdisciplinary team. The last half of the semester will offer the opportunity to spend significant time in the prototyping lab. While we will focus on developing technology solutions, no content will be so discipline-specific as to limit the full participation by students from any discipline; and, indeed, thinking about users and business factors necessitates greater diversity that can inspire higher levels of innovation!

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