March - April 2010
Moving Outside of the Box Douglas Wang, Autodesk Shanghai User Experience design manager and founder of Design for Disadvantaged (D4D), discusses innovation and creativity in China
As a design professional, how do you encourage innovative thinking among your employees? When working with a team, you must encourage flexibility and realize that people have different objectives and skills. So to keep a team motivated, you have to ensure that good results are rewarded. Communication is also key to encouraging new ideas in China. People here are more introverted and often not ready to present their ideas at the early stages. So, to encourage new ideas, you must also encourage different ways of communicating. For creatively oriented businesses, the objective is to create new products and services. So it’s also about process and culture. Process is the skeleton of innovation, whereas culture is the soul of innovation. In practice, there are many ways to encourage creativity, and when it comes to innovation, it’s all about building the team culture and establishing a process that will help the team to focus. For example, there is a process known as Agile Practice (or Agile Software Development) in which the design of software occurs with no fixed schedule and in short “sprints.” While big companies often
March - April 2010
define what the goal product is at the beginning, with Agile Practice you develop the product without knowing how the final end product will turn out. Because this process is so flexible, you end up with a product that is more adaptive to the market. What has China taught you about working creatively? Right now creativity is really in demand and very much appreciated. People want new ideas and new solutions, so I find myself valued at a company like Autodesk and D4D. Do you think that China is a place that encourages innovation? The government is creating software parks and offering good incentives for people who hold patents as well as for innovative start-up firms. But at the same time, a designer who creates a product can always find a competitor who can do it for cheaper in China. With so many competitors, prices remain low, and as consumer markets prefer cheaper goods, there are no opportunities or incentives for designers to design quality products which require time and resources.
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