Innovator in Residence Wladawsky-Berger calls for creation of design studios at universities to build prototypes for innovation
Posted November 11, 2009
By Jonathan Arkin
USC Annenberg’s first Innovator in Residence, Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger (pictured, above left), led a Nov. 3 conversation focused on innovation, saying universities could help their own causes by building design studios and prototypes to attract interest and support (Watch the video).
Dr. Wladawsky-Berger used examples from his time as head of IBM’s Internet strategy to give schools such as USC Annenberg advice on how to innovate and stay ahead of the technological curve.
“IBM totally shifted in recognizing that the forum was in the marketplace,” he said. “To be part of that forum, you have to be brave enough to get out into the marketplace. If you stay in your castle, in your labs, in your university and you don’t go out there, that’s not where the game is being played. You have to go out there. … The key lesson was, keep inventing stuff, but you have to change your way and move from the research lab to the marketplace.”
Dean Ernest J. Wilson III (pictured, right), who invited Wladawsky-Berger to visit the School for a week to discuss innovative ideas, said the innovator in residence is well-versed on making positive and impactful changes.
“Dr. Wladawsky-Berger participated in one of the great innovation experiments in the history of modern media and modern industry,” Dean Wilson said. “When working with CEO Lou Gerstner of IBM, he turned that large important company and helped them change direction when he had responsibility for the Internet and Internet strategy in the early 1990s.”
Wladawsky-Berger pointed to the viability of Los Angeles as a possible center for innovation and marketing, using Annenberg’s immersive journalism projects as an example.
“There has to be a university,” said Wladawsky-Berger, hinting that USC might lead the way by mimicking the idea of a consortium of schools and developing a “design studio” that could create prototypes. “You cannot be a major entrepreneurial area without a major university…it would be really good to see a prototype of (an immersive journalism project). The talent to build prototypes like that is all over Los Angeles.”
He added that the idea of such a design studio would be to provide opportunities for students to take innovative ideas to the prototype stage.
“They produce the ideas, we give them the facilities to create prototypes,” he said.
Wladawsky-Berger led a number of company-wide initiatives during his 37 years at IBM such as Linux in Grid Computing and the On Demand Business initiative. He currently advises both IBM and Citigroup on strategy.
“When Dean Wilson contacted me and asked if I would spend a week at the Annenberg School as the Innovator in Residence, it would be like the Yankees saying ‘Would you like to come to a fantasy baseball camp?’…Wow, I get to come to the Annenberg School and spend a week here. That is a real treat.”
Wladawsky-Berger discussed his history with IBM, its forays into research and development before and after the Internet changed computing, and he offered advice about becoming more effective in creating collaborative marketing to promote efforts in innovation, research and at conferences – where innovation is shared with colleagues. He said he encouraged a “near-death” IBM to embrace the Internet as a relevant partner to business – at a pre-Internet time when distrust of many new technologies was coupled with a tendency by competitors to appropriate original IBM inventions.
Wladawsky-Berger said any time a new idea was developed and pitched to others, a common question was “Do you have a prototype?” – something he said should be answered in the affirmative at USC Annenberg as well.
"I came across a number of other interesting communications and media projects," Wladawsky-Berger wrote in his most recent blog. "I could sense that an innovation and entrepreneurial culture is beginning to take hold at USC Annenberg. The new ideas they come up with need to be further prototyped in a kind of design studio, so you can actually conduct experiments with real users. A major next step will be to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem around the school, so the ideas they come up with will find their way into the marketplace through both new and existing companies. This won’t be easy, and much work remains to be done, but I came away from my week at USC Annenberg with the feeling that the school is well on its way to making it happen."
Watch the video Enter USC Annenberg News Archive »back to top
Wladawsky-Berger’s blog about time at USC Annenberg