Once again, I came at this week’s readings with the eyes of a Designer that spends much of my time wearing the hat of prospective industry entrant, innovative disruptor, creative competitor. As an ecologically minded Interaction Designer, more specifically, I am particularly interested in exploring the realm of substitutes - facilitating more sustainable ways of life by designing useful, usable and desirable alternatives to existing (unsustainable) products, services and behaviors. To do this, I stay up to date with technology, considering emergent innovation and anticipating (often designing) the ways in which it will disrupt existing systems. I do not, however, spend much, if any, time thinking about the competitive forces that shape the industries I am trying to disrupt. And this, I believe, is a limitation of my discipline.
While Michael Porter outlines the Five Forces Framework as a way to help companies and investors to consider threats to profitability beyond direct competition, I wonder what might happen if technology or service innovators used the Five Forces Framework to identify an industry particularly ripe for disruption? This question is particularly pertinent to me considering my current work exploring a viable business application for an emergent technology.
At present, I am collaborating with three colleagues on a Microsoft-sponsored design project to explore a viable application for Mixed Reality technology. As an organization, Microsoft stays so much afront technological development that it often has built capabilities before clearly defining their application. Microsoft has identified Mixed Reality as one such technology - they know it will be a significant disruptor but they don’t know exactly where, how or when. So, they’ve come to Carnegie Mellon for help exploring possible applications. As Designers, my team and I have at our disposal a robust set of tools, methods and approaches to do this. We’ve explored the differentiating capabilities of the technology and unearthed latent human needs. We’ve iterated and generated ideas that match the two in unique and novel ways. While I truly believe that this human-focused, design-led approach will yield the most sensitive, thoughtful and disruptive solution, this week’s reading has me wondering how my approach, my methods and my ideas might differ had I started from the perspective of the Five Forces Framework? Though I’m not sure it alone would be sufficient, I do think it might support more viable, sustainable and effective design and business solutions and I’m eager to give it a try!