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Designers need skills to lead and skills to disrupt

Designers need skills to lead and skills to disrupt

17 January 2018

Design Council caught up with Peter Fullagar, Head of Innovation at Kinneir Dufort to talk about design and innovation and the skills designers need today and in the future.

Ten years ago, creativity was at the bottom of the top ten skills wish list. But today, creativity is near the top. Someone not surprised to hear this is Peter Fullagar who is currently leading global innovation projects for brands including Sony, Coca-Cola and Unilever. 

Peter has spent much of his 15-year career so far invested in design and creativity. The agency he works for – Kinneir Dufort are behind innovations such as the super lightweight twist bottle for Coca-Cola and products to help reduce hospital infection within healthcare for Bristol Maid. 

“Our work is at the intersection of several disciplines”, he said. “It is not just one person’s responsibility to design and be creative at Kinneir Dufort. We are holistic in our view. We are made up of different people – designers, researchers, technologists, engineers... and more. For us, the role of design is in the intersection between all of these disciplines”.

Agencies like Kinneir Dufort are set up to ‘design a better world’. They are invested in creating value through tomorrow’s products and experience and work across the full spectrum from the start of the innovation and design process to the engineering of the product. They are invested in tomorrow, and that includes the skills for tomorrow.

“The question many are asking is whether you need to have a broad knowledge across disciplines or become a specialist in a certain area. We need both, but if you choose to specialize, you still need to understand the full innovation process and how your specialism impacts on other areas of the business. Every specialism needs to add value”.

Value is an important concept to Peter. And something he thinks every organisation must demonstrate. “To be successful in the future, you need to think about what the products or services of the future will look like and what it will it do for people. How are you going to add value to people’s experiences and where is the need coming from? These are important considerations in the development and creation of new products and services”.

The involvement of people in the design and innovation process and the importance of stakeholder engagement is also crucial, according to Peter. “We design for everyone in a system” he said. “And I don’t just mean end-users. Users are important, but stakeholders are just as important. Everyone has an agenda and a need they wish to fulfil and actually you are designing for all the people in the system. If you don’t consider everyone, then you will find it hard to get your product or service out there in the real world”.

When recruiting, Peter and the team look for the right attitude as well as a range of skills. “Attitude is what we recruit for. We want to recruit people who have the attitude to understand, to learn and to grow”. Disruptive thinking is also a must. “We look for people who believe there is a different way – a better way – to deliver products and services. This person is not content with the ways things are”.

Creativity, collaboration and speed are also high on the wish list at Kinneir Dufort.  “You need to be able to collaborate. You might be taught as independent designers, but in the real world, you will have to work within teams and add value from your particular perspective. We need people who can collaborate, and not everyone is good at this”.

The team at Kinneir Dufort use the Double Diamond to guide them but increasingly apply ‘sprint methodology’ when working on new briefs. This helps them to remain loyal to the design and innovation process but also get to the result quicker. “Speed is becoming more and more important and how fast you can get to a solution. We apply the sprint methodology, which is taking the core principles of the Double Diamond but contracting it down to the smallest possible time slot that is physically possible”.

The reason for adopting this approach is clear according to Peter. Doing things multiple times but in a tight timeframe allows them to mitigate the risks early in the process. “Adopting this approach means we are not spending three months doing something – we are taking 1-2 weeks. This permits us to fail because it’s ok to leave something and move on after a few weeks rather than a few months. By failing early in the process, you are not really failing at all”. 

About Peter 

Peter has worked in front-end innovation for last 15 years developing big ideas that are inspired by new insights yet grounded within achievable technologies. Since 2011 he had headed up Kinneir Dufort’s innovation team-leading global innovation projects for the likes of Sony, Coca-Cola and Unilever through to new start-ups. His team help clients identify new market opportunities, plan next-generation products and create long-term innovation pipelines.

Peter’s innovation and design consulting background have included working for What if? Innovation, Design Council and Dyson and spans multiple sectors across FMCG, Consumer Product and Medical industries. Peter is passionate about applying the right processes using collaborative creativity to help navigate the complexities of big innovation challenges and focus on finding the big ideas that can be realised to deliver differentiation and growth.

About Design Academy

This interview was conducted by Design Council to highlight the need for design across UK industry. Design Council encourage undergraduates and universities across the United Kingdom to be a part of our Design Council programme Design Academy. The programme delivers world-class training, which enables undergraduate students to transition successfully into the ever-challenging employment market.

Our four-day modular programme provides graduates with a competitive edge, with training based on our Framework for Innovation which is currently delivered on MBA programmes for civil servants, small and medium-sized businesses and large corporates as well as their supply chains. Each year, the programme targets a major societal challenge that Design Council is working on.

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