The Innovation Cycle: Jeremy Alexis and Cynthia Benjamin

Jeremy Alexis

Assistant Professor, IIT Institute of Design

Jeremy has spent the majority of his professional career leading interdisciplinary teams tasked with defining next generation products, services, and business models. He has worked with clients such as Unilever, Motorola, Citibank, Pfizer, American Express, Target Corporation, and Zebra Technologies. Jeremy’s research agenda involves understanding the strategic value of design and defining the role of design in business strategy. This research will develop a framework for the successful application of design methods, skills, and thinking to business problems related to competitiveness and organic growth.

Cynthia Benjamin

Senior Engagement Manager, Strategic Decisions Group

Ms. Benjamin has a concentration in business growth and innovation strategy, with eight years of consulting experience in business model development and corporate strategy with industry leaders such as Procter & Gamble, Federal Express, Genentech, and Cisco Systems. Prior to joining SDG, Ms. Benjamin was a design engineer at IDEO Product Development, as well as founder and general manager of Samson-McCann, Inc., designing and manufacturing unique furniture and home furnishings.

Their information was presented as a discussion between them, centering principally around the process SDG used in advising Ford on the development and launch of the new Mustang.

It was interesting to note their formulation that “innovation is top of mind, but bottom of list” in terms of attention in corporations.

They had an interesting diagram, using a hip messenger bag and a traditional briefcase to represent constituencies similar to those referenced by Roger Martin–design and business. Their diagram was a hopeful construct, allowing a flexible set of commitments to idea generation and value creation, and each dependent on execution excellence (what we’d call excellent delivery).

They offered “Principles for a New Model” of relationships between design and business for more effective innovation:

  1. Build participation from both creative and operational sides
  2. Focus on solving the highest value or highest difficulty problems first
  3. Align incentives to support process, not results
  4. Utilize clear, effective, reliable and flexible modes
  5. Identify goals and diagnose the current state


In the Mustang program, they justified corporate commitments on four axes (design approach, volume and price, capital investments, and product demand) along scales with end points of business led vs. design led values, and approaches.

A key tool for them was something they called a “tornado chart.”
This is a financial model which used influences having an effect on success, and measurables associated with the degree of uncertainty or value associated with each influence.
The object is to define net present value to shape corporate commitments to innovations and product development programs.

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