Dr. Joyce F. Brown, FIT’s president, noted that the program, now 15 years old, remains the only program like it in the US. She cited the program’s unique positioning, innovative curriculum, its growth over the years, and in particular, this year’s research topic—innovation.
“This year the theme of Capstone is The Future of Innovation. I know ‘innovation’ is a catchword today, but that doesn’t make it any less significant,” said Dr. Brown. She noted FIT’s Design and Tech Lab, which enables students to solve problems of industry, and cited the Master’s Degree program as a think tank and a source of great pride for FIT. “Our students present their research overseas, as well as in the US, and most recently presented in London,” said Dr. Brown.
She thanked LVMH and retiring CEO Pamela Baxter, for their support and sponsorship of the evening’s event, and invited Tennille Kopiasz, senior vice president, North America, marketing, Parfums Christian Dior, LVMH to the podium to introduce Pamela Baxter and present a check to FIT to support developing talent in the future. Baxter noted how rewarding it was to see the response to the students’ research, adding, “Their research inspires new thinking that brings value to their brands.”
The graduates, who are also emerging beauty industry executives, began their presentation with an overview of how academia, startups, NGOs, creative agencies, media and consultancies, and the government impact the innovation landscape of companies today. Beginning with External Innovation: The Global Innovation Culture, students observed that innovation goes beyond research labs, Silicon Valley pitch meetings, and large corporate initiatives. Ultimately asking, “Who is really in control of the future of innovation?”
Students found that, “When examined holistically, innovation springs from many external sources and is the product of symbiotic relationships, partnerships and collaboration across domains.” They dubbed these partnerships indicative of a new “collaboration nation,” which highlights and enables insights across industries. Students revealed their methodology, explored strategies for growth, looked at factors for success, and made recommendations for future innovation culture and processes.
In discussing Internal Innovation: Centered on Corporate Communications, students explored what the future of innovation will look like within organizations during the next seven years. The team conducted interviews across 10 industries, including technology, automotive, fashion, retail, academia, innovation consultancies, and beauty in four different international markets, including Japan, China, South Korea and the US; they conducted 80 interviews with global experts at 3M, Chanel, Gap, Google, Estée Lauder, Shinola and Shiseido, among others. Their research identified macrotrends and the development of a new organizational model for innovation.
The new model identifies the right organizational design to drive diversity of thought and experience, broadens the perspectives of employees via an elevated talent development structure, and creates a work environment rooted in trust, allowing for the exchange of insight and intellect that will drive innovation and ultimately drive concrete business returns during the next seven years.
The students contend that companies focusing more on new product innovation rather than game-changing broad stroke innovations will not be as successful as those that create symbiotic collaborations to achieve their goals.
“We have an overload of information today. In three minutes, four million gigabytes of information have been downloaded onto the internet,” students noted, and this information will ultimately need to be shared in an emerging trend referred to as the Democratization of Innovation.
“Individuals can now create innovations for themselves. Software companies make technology more user friendly, so individuals become creators,” they said.
Fab Labs (fabrication laboratories) enable inventors to create almost anything; and such online entities as Etsy and You Tube, also have granted access for all.
“Collaborative consumption, like Uber, has given rise to the ‘uberization’ of the economy, and fostering trust has become key in these interactions,” the students explained. They noted that if trust is not there, value is destroyed; the remedy is collaboration consumption that fosters trust.
In what they dubbed, “the linked generation,” a reframing of the Gen Z nomenclature, collaboration is the DNA. This demographic is entrepreneurial and independent, driven by purposeful work. They cited a shift from DIY (Do It Yourself) to DIT (Do It Together), affirming that access, trust and collaboration are the new steps to innovation.
Collaborative examples they cited included such innovative partnerships as the Korean government’s investment in biotech and beauty industries, Sweden’s government fostering innovation, as well as creating an environment of creativity and a happier population, and in the US, the creation of a discounted diaper initiative, enabling 10-15 million diapers to be distributed to those in need.
Collaborative innovation requires a creative, adaptive and nimble mindset. Students described how telecommunications enable the formation of innovation hubs, like those in New York and Shanghai, with such concepts as “We Work,” offering co-working office space, flexibility and community to a new wave of workers. They also noted that corporations can be innovative partners, as even the fiercest competitors can join together to innovate; for example, Google and Microsoft ended their patent wars and began collaborating.
Students predicted that by 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelance, giving rise to omni-employees, who match their skill sets and the way they work to their partners, with access, communication, and trust. Finally, students predicted that the future will hold a place for Innovation Districts, education will become more flexible, and tech will continue to inform innovation partners to drive social change. “Collaboration with large corporations is just the beginning,” they said.
“We envision individuals going from the American Dream to the American Truth, collectively developing solutions through online open innovation platforms, Fab Labs and ‘Xcelarators’ to advance future innovation, and embracing the do it together mind set, ultimately allowing individuals to break out of the “self-preservation bubble,” they explained, and enter the realm of “The Fluid Organization,” which expands around consumer need.
Students observed a shift from the 9-5 production line mentality, noting that the 21stcentury requires an upgrade to autonomy and purpose. Integral to this is the concept of Balance, Proportion, Rhythm and Unity. Rather than routine and time-blocking, this will result in flexibility and customization, giving rise to increased productivity and creativity. The future of employment will require career “curation,” not in a ladder, but through experience, conversation and reflection enabling individuals to design their career path; and companies will need to determine ways to balance the need for artificial intelligence and human intelligence.
Thus, the new Innovation Blueprint requires a fluid organization, with an adaptive structure; time design, a concept that shifts the focus of corporate organizations from the traditional model to the collaborative structure with input from external partners; and trust culture, a dynamic corporate environment rooted in psychological safety and the exchange of perspectives. They noted that increasing trust within a corporate structure by 10% has the same impact as giving employees a 36% increase in pay, according to findings by Helliwell & Haifang, in 2008. The discussion prompted the students to ask, “Are you ready to implement this blueprint for your company’s success?”
The Innovation Blueprint
A panel discussion moderated by Ellen Byron, The Wall Street Journal, featured the perspectives of Group Leaders Hilary Feldman, Andrea Muguerza, Megan Manco and Andrea Steele. The discussion focused on time design, the fluid organization, and the truth culture envisioned for today’s businesses. Many of the ideas suggested at the presentation, noted Byron, dealt with shaking up the corporate culture, and panelists agreed that a change in the CEO mindset would be key to that objective.
“Talent curation is key,” panelists agreed, “and this will entail a huge role for CEOs.”
Students defined the environment necessary to create the new corporate culture, emphasizing that forging a place where people feel safe in their roles, and continue to pass knowledge along in their companies, will keep the environment fluid. “Goal setting is still encompassed in the program, but it is more holistic, more engaging,” they explained. “The deliverables are the same, but the model structure is different.”
Panelists agreed that open innovation portals, like those created by Beiersdorf and Unilever, for example, can drive global innovation further, and transparency with open sourced data can be used to bolster trust with consumers.
Awards and Honors
Mary E. Davis, dean, school of graduate studies, FIT, congratulated the students on their creation of enhanced business models for the future, and introduced the first award of the evening, Limited Brands Student Leadership Award, presented by Camille McDonald, president, Brand Development & Merchandising, Bath & Body Works, Limited Brands, to award winner Andrea Steele, Digital Insights & Innovation, Unilever.
Scholarship Awards were presented by Dr. Giacomo M. Oliva, vice president for academic affairs, FIT and Dr. Brooke Carlson, assistant professor, cosmetics & fragrance marketing & management, FIT, to Jessica Abrams, product development, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare; Andrea Muguerza, global marketing, L’Oréal USA; Kristi Silko, customer marketing manager, Coty, Inc.; and Andrea Steele, digital and e-commerce, Unilever, North America. The Outstanding Scholar Award was presented to Megan Manco, research and innovation, L’Oréal, USA.
The Coty Award for Professional Excellence was introduced by Ildiko Juhasz, national education director, LVMH Fragrance Brands/Chair, Cosmetics and Fragrance Alumni Association (CAFAA), and presented by Simone Bolotin, US director, influencer marketing, luxury fragrances, Coty, to Sheherazade Chamlou, VP-sales & marketing, SGD. Chamlou emphasized the diverse talents of the graduating students and graciously acknowledged the opportunities she has had to interact with global beauty brands in her career, closing with an African proverb that related them both, “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go with others.”
The Estée Lauder Companies Faculty Leadership Award, presented by Dmitra Manis, senior VP, global talent, The Estée Lauder Companies, recognizes a professor’s performance each year, and this year was presented to Karen Young, adjunct professor, FIT.
The Department Medal, the closing award of the evening, was presented by Jerry Vittoria, president, Firmenich, USA, to Andrea Muguerza, global marketing director, L’Oréal USA.