Design Concepts has an avid bike to work culture, and many employees took advantage of the beautiful weather this week by participating in fun events around the Madison area as part of National Bike to Work Week.
Rainer Schnabel, director of new product development and principal, and Jesse Darley, director of mechanical engineering, were among the Design Concepts employees who stopped to get some “Bacon on the Bikepath” at the commuter station along the shores of Lake Monona near the Monona Terrace during their morning commute to work.
The passion for cycling goes beyond recreation and transportation at Design Concepts, which has partnered with companies such as Trek Bicycle Corporation, a world-renowned leader in the cycling industry, to develop innovative new products.
While biking to work earlier in the week, mechanical engineer David Gennrich reported meeting a fellow biker who was wearing a Trek helmet that Design Concepts worked on. While chatting about the helmet, the biker said she liked its adjustment system, which Design Concepts designed.
Sherry Eckholm, studio lead in design for Design Concepts, collaborated with Trek’s lead researcher to set up an impromptu refueling station for people who bike from Madison out to Trek’s facility in Waterloo.
The doughnut, juice and coffee stop that they set up at the corner of County Highway T and N between Madison and Waterloo was a fun surprise for the roughly 20 cyclists who stopped by on their commute.
Dave Franchino, president and principal of Design Concepts, delivered a keynote speech to about 400 business leaders at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s BizExpo on Tuesday, stressing to his audience that innovation is an essential ingredient for business success.
Speaking at the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall, Franchino said some businesses fall into the trap of thinking that they don’t need to focus much on innovation in their industry. He said innovation isn’t something businesses today can afford to ignore.
“And I would both challenge and warn you that if you don’t think about innovation, your competitors will. They will find a way to out-innovate you and eventually destroy your business,” Franchino said.
Design Concepts has worked with a wide range of business clients across various industries, and Franchino said that has allowed the firm to really see what works and doesn’t work in innovation and develop a unique perspective on innovating for business success.
“We’re a firm that does nothing but try to innovate on behalf of our clients. It’s the sole purpose of why we exist,” Franchino said.
He said sometimes when people think about innovation, they immediately think of things like biotechnology or the Internet, but he pointed out that innovation isn’t just about technology solutions. Franchino said sometimes innovation lies in exploring customer needs.
“Sometimes in our firms and businesses, innovation is all about finding a new need — something that our customers might not have been aware they have until we put a solution in front of them,” Franchino said.
Franchino gave the audience four simple things they could do in their companies to drive innovation: hear, see, think and talk.
He said the front end of innovation in most situations comes from taking the time to listen to your customers and hear what they’re looking for.
Beyond hearing the customer, he said companies should watch and witness what their customers actually do.
“Because often what people say they do and what they really do can be dramatically different,” he said. “It’s taking the time to immerse yourselves in the lives of your customers, to spend time with them, to watch and figure out what their pain points are. Not just understanding how they use your services and your products, but how they fit into the fabric of their lives can be a really important driver of innovation.”
Beyond that, he recommended creating a corporate culture internally that values thinking and taking the time to think creatively about your business and encouraging innovative new ideas.
Finally, Franchino said companies should do that thinking within the context of a business culture that is willing to talk about innovation and take the time to talk about doing things differently.
“If you can hear, see, think and talk about innovation, innovation will happen in your firms,” he said.
Congratulations to Design Concepts’ staff members Jeff Emmerich, director of electrical engineering and Kevin Kopp, senior electronic technician. Jeff and Kevin were part of the team to receive recognition from NASA for their contribution to the High Efficiency Lighting with Integrated Adaptive Control (HELIAC) while they worked with Orbitec, a leading subsystems integrator and high technology development company. HELIAC is an LED-based system that allows plants to receive optimal illumination to maximize photosynthesis. The system illuminates plants from above and from within the plant’s mass of foliage.
Congratulations, Jeff and Kevin!
Mason, OH hosted this years United States Australian Football League (USAFL) National Championships. And Dan Sarbacker’s club, the Chicago Swans, took home the flag in Division 3. Besting the Columbus Jackaroos in the Grand Final after losing 3 times to them this year (that’s all in the past!), Sarbacker and the Swans took home the 2012 title in blustery conditions by a margin of 4.7.31 to 3.4.22. Don’t know exactly what that score means? Then you’ll want to learn more about Australian Rules Football and the Championship!
Badger alumni Craig Conner and Curt Irwin are featured on the UW-Madison College of Engineering website in Badger Engineers. The online magazine focuses on UW-Madison alumni committed to engineering excellence.
In the article, Craig and Curt share their approach to human factors. From observational research to validation studies, their work makes certain designs meet the needs of users.