“Any great idea is useless unless you can make it a reality,” Andrew McKechnie, creative director for Apple, told the 200-plus audience on a Skype call from Silicon Valley, where he leads a 60-strong team.

“I’ve seen a lot of very talented people who have been able to come up with amazing ideas, but they didn’t have patience or the dedication to push them through,” said the expat Kiwi.

Asked how Apple’s approach to design differed from his experience with the major ad agencies he had worked with in his international career, Mr McKechnie said the tech giant devoted a massive amount of time to conceiving and exploring ideas.

“It’s very iterative,” he said. “We go very wide. As we narrow in on certain areas that we think are interesting or could be cool ways of expressing a product or an idea, there’s a constant accordion-like process.”

Whereas a typical agency, because of timeline constraints, might narrow down to three ideas for the client then focus on one, Apple had much more of a culture around making sure the idea was the right thing to proceed with, he said.

“We may end up landing on one idea and as we explore it further, if it doesn’t feel right, we abandon it. I think that’s a pretty critical difference in my experience. It’s OK to go back to the drawing board and go through that process all over again.”

Mr McKechnie said it was important not to fear the unknown because the journey of innovation could often be a long one.

“Fear will definitely only slow you down,” he said. “And be nice – people don’t have time for egos.”

Zespri innovation manager Carole Ward noted that there was a 16-year process of getting a new kiwifruit cultivar developed and to market.

“Innovation is an attitude,” she said. “An idea can float away. It’s about adding value to it. And there’s a lot of ways you can add value.”

Drawing on her experience of having been brought up in a relatively isolated farm lifestyle, she explained how when she went to a boarding high school, she had embraced opportunities to a variety of after-school activities – even when she had no particular aptitude for them. And she spoke of the formative experience of a seventh form Rotary scholarship in Finland where her host family insisted she spoke Swedish (one of the two national languages).

“It’s about giving it go. Innovation is all about action – otherwise it’s just an idea floating around.”

And it was OK to make mistakes and get up again, she said. “You come up with a lot of ideas, you try something and test it and go back and try it again.”

The other key element in innovating, she said, was the importance of having empathy.

“Innovation is not just about products or services,” she said. “There’s a whole area about empathising and understanding who you are designing things for. It’s about stepping out of your own shoes and not looking at things through your own lens.”

Victoria University of Wellington design futurist Ross Stevens stressed the importance for modern manufacturing of 3D printing, an area where New Zealand was doing leading edge work. He has spent 15 years pioneering innovations in polymer 3D printing at VUW.

Tauranga is also a cutting-edge centre for 3D printing in titanium and other metals through the work being done by TiDA /Rapid Advanced Manufacturing.

“Tauranga is a pretty cool part of NZ to be exploring innovation,” he said. “The vibe coming out is pretty impressive and the momentum here is amazing.”

Mr Stevens described 3D printing as transformative for manufacturing, because one-one-off prototypes could be produced, rather than needing to go through an expensive tool-making process.

“It’s an absolute wonder technology,” he said, because the only thing needed before you printed was an idea.

His team was now researching digital film-making that incorporated soft and hard 3D printing technologies, working closely with Weta Workshop.

“We can now print these complex materials,” he said. “And we lead the world at it. That’s the thing people don’t really get – we are very good at it.”

The Innovation Forum is Tauranga economic development agency Priority One’s major innovation event, and is supported by sponsors Woods, The Creative Agency, Bluelab and Plus Group. The forum is tied in to the Young Innovator Awards (YIA), now in its seventh year. The forum came into existence to give the local community an opportunity to hear from the innovation superstars who come to the city to judge the awards.

The YIA winners were announced this week, with Lydia Gilmour, of Tauranga Girls College, taking out the top prize for her Swift Wrap concept, which won the senior category. (see our online story).

Last year’s senior winner, Hannah Payne, was a judge for this year’s events and told the forum taking part had been life-changing for her.

Her winning concept, Handstands, is a neoprene comfort cushion that can be velcroed onto crutches to make them more comfortable for users. As result of her YIA experience, in February she began an industrial design course at Massey University in Wellington.

“The Young Innovator Awards is the only reason I’m doing that course,” she told the forum. “I actually found out I was inspired to do industrial design. I discovered it was something I could do and it would be good for my future.”

Source: Bay of Plenty Times

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