Design and innovation week – Day 5

We had an insights summary from the morning that synthesised our learnings as a group. I’ll do as a separate post as a wrap up, but this afternoons speakers were also very interesting.

Venturing into the future – Kevin Monserrat – marketing manager at Microsoft Accelerator

After another brisk walk, we were at Microsoft Accelerator and had a stand up boardroom table to congregate around. All industries not immune to technology. Industry agnostic..

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Kevin, our group and the standing boardroom table 


Assumption: new disruptions can happen anytime. For companies seeking new ideas and innovation there some key conditions:

  • Move from a legacy to agile technology strategy
  • Key elements: People, strategy and process (PSP)
  • Have or hire talent to make the company innovate..
  • Find good start ups – via VC and private equity investors who surfaces them

Companies want to understand how they can better leverage technology and an accelerator can bring in new talent, technology and agile methodology. Kevin mentioned these factors for successful integration:

  • When the CEO or CIO is technical they take more risk working with different technologies.. and can see value in the innovation solution
  • Some understanding ‘the cloud’. It can be costly; paying people to understand it, bring them in.
  • Accelerators can maintain a start up mentality when everyone still has decision making power
  • Co-creation is fostered (no walled gardens/turf claiming)
  • Attractive start ups should have a turn over 1 million and raised 2 million in capital

Seeing REA’s own Nigel Dalton‘s post on  it looks like a similar model to bring innovation in to a traditional company.

IMG_6229 (1)Example of one of the start ups at the London Microsoft Accelerator 

R/GA – ‘Future of work’

Our final stop was at R/GA a design and innovation agency.

R/GA Helps brands capitalise on emerging tech technology and human behaviours

Each evolution of the R/GA has had to recognise new technology and redefine its practice in order to grow and stay current.

We saw an amazing show reel that demonstrated the high quality of design and production they are capable of.

Business , data, m-commerce, communication, disruption

R/GA look at a diverse range of services and have gone full service agency incorporating their own digital content production facilities. Like REA they have an innovation space in their New York office and other select ones for testing new technologies to get a feel for them ahead of their clients.

R/GA tenets

Productivity – a workspace, above all else, should be an establishment that makes doing good work easy and enjoyable

Flexibility – We’re a company that’s always innovating. In an industry that never stops changing. We need a space that evolves with us.

Collaboration – Our best work happens when employees with diverse skills work together on a common vision. The Connected Space is built for teamwork.

Storytelling – As a company committed to connecting the physical world to the digital landscape, our space helps tell our story.

Inspiration – A workplace isn’t just a place to work. It should constantly spark creativity.

See the story here 

Workplace The Connected Space Documentary About RGA RGA connected by design – YouTube

Not just a digital studio, R/GA also have an accelerator program with 10 startups in IOT space for example. As a consulting practice R/GA looks deep into businesses, seeing how they work and are organised

mdel+for+growthR/GAs evolving model for growth from silo’ed to eco system of functionally integrated services and offerings

Turning thinking into making

R/GA value a mix of thinking and making, a convergence of design, technology and communications is one of R/GAs many strengths.

As a growing studio, content is created in-house (a practice REA’s growing here) .. as well as this, connected buildings; part of their architecture practice. Their first one in NYC as both a flagship and a living showcase of their capability.

Creating experiences that make individual lives better

R/GA identify technology and work that moves culture and look at data and media connections.

Working at interaction .. collaboration for different disciplines

Human,  simple , powerful – products should be:

  • Intimate – easy and quick access to tailored functionality
  • Consistent – natural, easy, and quick navigation
  • Persistent – always available, in any place at anytime
  • Flexible – text, voice, images and video
  • Scaleable – from view to many

Using data and observation to anticipate new behaviour, they design with the goal to have people interact, generate data we can analyse and give it back ; keeping the experience evolving and human.

Beats music

R/GA worked with Beats music; understanding  and analysing , the music people want to listen to.

They paired suggestion engines with human curators that know music.

Beats music after launch design MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and other features was so successful, that after 3 months apple acquired it. Case study video here

Reductive design that makes every experience effortless. R/GA people to adopt and engage in new behaviours. .

Example – NiKe ID – case study

This changed how people interact with Nike.

The shoe is the interface sending data that was used for changing the product, customising through the app through design.

Nike aimed to improve peoples lives and make people better athletes. Using data from training trainer, it can teach people and marry their knowledge and data and give it to the community

Result: habit forming solutions that use data to enable business growth

R/GA believe that multi disciplinary teams can think through different lenses; ‘thinkers’ and ‘makers’, when approaching a design problem.

Know better, connect fast – use design and technology to achieve unfair competitive advantage

  • Take a human centric approach to create connected experiences.
  • Work with people who are not afraid of taking risk’s and want to make genuine differences
  • Redefine as we go along constantly
  • Engage in idea generation

Redefining strategy – we saw examples of how R/GA had rethought

Getting children to brush their teeth  – Little brush , big brush.. 

A concept film to tell a story of making household automation seem like magic – AI Beko – connected home 

Connected spaces

R/GA also Consult, design, and have partnerships for designing ‘Connected spaces’.

“Integrating architecture, design and technology R/GA are pioneering the connection between physical space and the digital landscape.”

Physical and digital spaces, information, architecture, technology and Internet of things converging.

R/GA applied the practice to their own offices, showing us their connect3 app, they shared the possibilities of an office connected including, booking meeting rooms, finding them, locating colleagues.

Connect3 together can imagine what the possibilities are.

R/GA always on screens showcases R/GA Connect 3 office app
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Home/Hotels/Spaces are getting smarter .

For example,

  • The Aloft hotels allow you to check in before arriving at the hotel
  • Gyms are more data driven .need to up the game. Equinox . second screen see how you are doing against others.
  • Offices, remote working and cloud services connect offices to people working remotely.
  • Theme parks – Disney leads the charge, providing access to hotel and park tickets before arrival through apps and beacons tuned to your device or wristband.

Connected spaces give us personalised stores, museums and libraries.

As the value of connected space becomes apparent, people can see the value.

Working in the office becomes the showcase opportunities, R/GA’s office is always in beta and evolving. They address data we capture and are always observing people using the space. (I’d love to set up a practice like that here –  Pete G)

Principles of R/GA’s space

Productivity .. a workplace should be an environment that makes doing good work easy and enjoyable

Rubber floor for acoustic and bouncing iPhones

Wayfinding – find places, meeting rooms, areas etc


Always innovating.. needing space that evolves with us, R/GA lets people hack it. Some of the hardware they use

Collaboration – diverse skills collaborating for a common vision . connected space build for team work

Networked offices – bumping into people; sparks something,

Employee location by beacon

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Storytelling – as a company committed to connecting the physical world to the digital landscape, our space tells our story 

Unified design and experiences.

Connected LED panels show ribbon projections, journey screens

Everything tells the story of the brand and the people

Staff project – looking to bring more emotion to screens

R/GA combined the music DNA of people who work at RGA. They got the top 50 songs of people and  .. hooked slack into Spotify.

Inspiration – “a workplace should be a place to spark creativity”

  • Prototype studio
  • Game room
  • Startup accelerator space
  • Outside art collection
  • Slack office bot. to learn about people

Workshop build a Facebook bot

We used the Reply .ai platform that allows rapid prototyping of conversational bots and robust solution for conversational services. The flows are actions or rules. Actions ask questions or provide info to the users.

Rule, if-then. separate conversation out onto different branches. We made one that mimics a booking system for meeting rooms. Hmm hack day project anyone?

Next post: will be the mornings synthesis of the week we had, summarising the teams conclusions of the state of Design Thinking and Innovation .. its been an amazing week.

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Back to Day 4

Design and innovation week – day 4

Day 4 – Knowledge Quarter, Facebook and BBoxx

‘Collaboration for innovation’ – talk from Knowledge Quarter

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Jodie Eastwood – CEO Knowledge Quarter, information broker and super connector

Back at our HQ residence, Jodie talked about the goals of Knowledge Quarter London. Linking tech companies, educational institutions, libraries ( in the area around Shorditch, Kings Cross London and areas for the advancement, creation, assimilation and dissemination of knowledge.

London Library, Allan Crick medical library, Google, Allen Turing Institute, Bloomberg Creative Quarter 1759 for example. It consists of 35-80 partners, cross sector, and thier strategic priorities vary from group to group. (60000 staff in a network)

Goals/Mission is large: Foster local innovation, recognise diversity, distribute knowledge to the world, advocacy and communications..Knowledge exchange sharing , community engagement, environment and sustainability.

Developing proprietary knowledge base members can access on subscription, (Member fees are based on organization type and number of employees).

People are encouraged to meet each other not email and discuss their field on a non-jargonistic way either over dinners or even just ‘over a coffee’. This often causes synergies and connections in what might be otherwise unrelated fields. E.g. maths could help a chemistry or statistical model problem.

Not wanting to disrupt communities like Silicon Valley has disrupted suburbs in San Francisco, Knowledge Quarter initiatives include:

  • Fostering community walks e.g. VR kit walking tour of buildings so people, communities can see what the institutions are like.
  • Apprenticeship programs for local people, they can work with an expert and bridge gaps into work or study.
  • Provide positive involvement at primary school level. Knowledge Quarter had found that getting primary school children interested in careers before secondary school (and the distractions of teen life), they carried a sense of what they wanted to do and how to get there.

At a visit from the ‘Craft council’ Julie remembered talking to a student and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied “a footballer, basket baller or a structural engineer” heartening her greatly.

  • Walked six hundred streets to identify opportunities to improve things around Camden and Islington.
  • Another event run by Knowledge Quarter was an architectural hackathon. Town planners and design students built models and scored them and presented to the local authorities
  • Advocacy and policy dinners e.g. for advancement of AI and machine learning , lots of experts (Watson, Deep Mind CTO, multidisciplinary sharing ideas and educating policy makers.

Positioning the area and London as an Innovation District; they are areas driven by people (mainly millennials and many gen-x’s) want to live, work and have recreation (fun/play).

Purposefully connected districts
Brooking centre in Seattle for example, people value proximity to work, a sense of place (galleries, cultural activities, coffee) , want to cycle and walk to work . This cannot be forced and has to be authentic. Physical connections between people, relationships and firms , produces something greater than the sum of their parts. Once this reaches critical mass says, Jodie, innovation happens. see One year after: Observations on the rise of innovation districts | Brookings Institution for more

Jodies’ conclusion;  innovation and dialogues  

In conversations, don’t use acronyms, be challenged, don’t use expert terms, ask questions and don’t be judging. Have a positive outlook, don’t fear failure. In this collaboration and innovation are inevitable (and we must accept it).

Get to that point and the barriers become simple….

VIRAL Model for innovation

Vision – Share vision, work together, tackle the big problems, the large questions.

Shared ownership, context where collaboration is possible. How it works in practice is negotiable and contextual

Impact – Focus on collaboration, what will it achieve

Relationship – collaboration , trust, people

Action – reflection, plan , monetisation

Learn – equally learn from failure and insights

This is not prescriptive, the method looks at trust face to face . Interview, then and now.

Review yearly. This was really inspiring and it would be great to see something like Knowledge Quarter fostered in Melbourne. 
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Sights seen walking station to station – onwards to our next stop.. Facebook!

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Facebook designers poster

That will be added as soon as I get feedback on what I can share. It was informative!

Chris Baker Brian – Bboxx

This was our final talk of the day after lunch and a few interchanges on the London Tube back to We Work. Chris Brian Baker is Co founder and CTO of Bbbox.

BBoxx sell solar battery, light, usb charger (most useful charger from their research) and low energy television primarily in East Africa.

Starting as a charity program after university, it pivoted in a for profit model.


Sold through a local retail network, training and up-skilling locals and making power affordable to many users off the grid or who can’t afford the grid costs.

IMG_6155 (1)Bboxx Industry Verticals

From SAS to PAS

Bboxx is Power as a service. With their own engineers they produced a solar battery and monitoring system that can send feedback and GPS location through the 2-3g network. Every 4 minutes, data comes in about usage times and types of devices (boxee devices only) use. It can’t power a fridge yet.

If the bills stop being paid by the householder, the power can be cut remotely until payment is made.

Design and development frameworks not unlike REA, from the 12 month strategic plan, 3 month programme of roadmap 1-2week development cycle.

Quarterly meeting for roadmaps  – Moscow rules, must should could and state gates.

During agile projects , they have showcases more frequently and also stage gate (decision points)  and get feedback early and often from stakeholders.

In the future with their R&D on remote IOTT, monitor and control technology, there is a market for selling those products and cloud monitoring system.

They also are looking to monetize water, and would be able to control local water supplies.

Innovation for Chris? Luck and data.

Focus on the road map, agile team, frequent showcases and early and frequent decision points. 

This was quite a day and we went back to our accommodation to share some learnings and cheese we’d brought at borough markets.
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