Alchimie du design et de l’innovation : comment ça marche 1/2

Le 01 avril 2013, par Jean-Jacques URVOY
design et innovation comment ca marche
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Le directeur marketing d’un laboratoire pharmaceutique mondial a voulu comprendre comment l’innovation est encore possible en design. Résumé d’une séance très riche, avec son accord, prochainement publiée. La transcription se trouve dans l’article suivant.

I asked several questions to Jean-Jacques Urvoy about his creative skills as I was really interested in understanding if a creative person would handle a professional activity differently than “non creative” persons, or at least than me. Jean-Jacques started saying that being a designer consists of a specific way of approaching the world, based on a logical process of ideas capture, assembling and passing on. He emphasized the fact that through this process a designer produces new “objects” but doesn’t necessarily create new things. Interestingly this is similar to what John Danner said about creativity during the major: Creative persons have a particular ability to assemble ideas but don’t really create new things.

During his projects, Jean-Jacques seems to proceed as per a precise mental process to design objects: He always starts writing some words and verbs since according to him “everything starts from a written concept”. He then starts visualizing some pictures and images that he assembles afterwards with the pre-written words in a consistent and harmonized way. As a final step, he tries to give meaning to the newly assembled object (e.g., a web site, a particular logo, a shop, a new service) putting it in a larger context and benchmarking it with other existing objects.


This being said, out of this particular approach, Jean-Jacques doesn’t work as per any specific methodology. He doesn’t like the idea of a methodology that would pre-determine everything and prefer considering that for every new project things need to be re-invented as it provides new perspectives. He even thinks that the methodology is part of the design process:  “The methodology itself is an act of design, a way you can change the world”.

In accordance with his creative sensations

Considering his activities of CEO, Jean-Jacques says that his creative skills are always “working” and even drive him for instance for building a business plan. For a big part of his professional activities – including managing his companies and teams – he works and behaves in accordance with his creative sensations. All in all, he thinks that a company is already an object of design by itself, with “human” materials, creative people and specific culture. It’s a place where innovation and flows of ideas need to be captured. He thinks that his creative skills help him maintaining a creative mindset there, leveraging “floating ideas”.

On the management topic, Jean-Jacques seems to have clear principles that he applies everyday. He believes that people need to experience different working environments and embrace new responsibilities to be able to consider different perspectives in their job. He also believes that it is important his teams spend time together, out of their professional environment so as to “create the conditions of a good team spirit”. That’s the reason why he systematically assigns his collaborators to different types of projects with different responsibilities and organizes teambuilding sessions on a regular basis.

Apart these management principles, Jean-Jacques is also very firm towards his collaborators. He thinks that he needs to show them the right direction so that initial objectives and engagements are respected. According to him, this is even more necessary with creative people: “People who have ideas are not necessarily inclined to complete projects on time”. Another thing that I found very interesting which demonstrates that Jean-Jacques is a man with deep values: For him the most important thing is that his company is not only a place for economic / wealth development, but for people development as well. According to him, “the idea is to collectively give meaning to what we do together”.

Innovation can bring negative impact on stress, family and friends

Finally, we talked about Jean-Jacques’ satisfactions and dissatisfactions in connection to his job. Starting with his dissatisfactions, he said that because he’s a designer running his own agencies, his mind is permanently occupied, leading to a heavy stress sometimes. To some extent, he doesn’t seem happy with the negative impact that this can have on his health and family.  On the other side, he also said that he gets multiple satisfactions from his job, such as the successful development of his activities and his agencies financial sustainability. However, I really felt that his biggest satisfaction comes from achieving things collectively; he likes to make the difference together with his collaborators, he likes to lead and be part of this human adventure: “At the end, I think that all is relying on people, I don’t believe into fate but in human being’s capability in changing things”.

In conclusion, I would say that I have been more than satisfied with Jean-Jacques ‘ interview. First of all, I really liked the way he described his own mental process for designing things. I’m not like this, I don’t behave the same way, but his way of working – and living – requires some abstraction capabilities and a deep understanding of the world and related energies (Permanent movement from the concepts to the pictures, then to new assembled objects). This is fascinating, and I really see him as both an artist and an entrepreneur.  Secondly,
there’s something I was absolutely not expecting before running the interview (But that I realized afterwards): Jean-Jacques seems to be the same type of person than Steven Bustin and Matt Flannery. I was not expecting this at all, but I naturally came to the conclusion that this type of persons strongly believes in human being. They’re not finding any personal fulfillment in making money, they even probably don’t value it. They are giving meaning to their life by collectively making things change and relying on people around them. That’s probably the most accurate representation of the word “Humanist”.

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