How Do We Foster A Culture Of Innovation? [PSFK NYC 2012]

Simon Collins, Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons The New School for Design explains how to create innovative change within an education organization.

On March 30, 2012, we will be hosting our sixth annual PSFK CONFERENCE NYC celebrating and sharing new ideas. Since 2007, the PSFK conference series has catered to creative professionals from around the world, exploring the latest trends, inspirations, and ideas. PSFK brings together the world’s leading creative thinkers with both established and emerging business leaders to bring to life the conversations that take place daily on PSFK.comClick here to purchase tickets and find additional information about this year’s event.

Speaking at the event will be Simon Collins, Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons The New School for Design. Simon will talk about his work with the school, thoughts on education and how he has created innovative change within the organization.

Tell us about how you worked with Parsons to make it a more agile and innovative organization?

Parsons has always enjoyed immense respect from the industry, not least because of the impressive number of alumni who are household names — Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Tom Ford, Jason Wu, Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler, Alex Wang etc– and understandably the school was focused on education rather than, for instance, PR. Over the past 4 years we’ve run some very high profile projects working with the fashion industry and drawing on the very best of what our students and faculty are capable of. Some small, and some very large, with partners like LVMH, Christian Louboutin, Allen Edmonds, Li Ning, Braciallini, Saks etc we have got a lot of attention. Since we continue to deliver over and above what anyone expects, word has got around.

One restriction has always been time outside the classroom for our students and faculty to work on projects. We addressed this by strategically targeting specific projects at sections of our student and faculty populations who had time to spare at different points in the curriculum. We know when our students have the mind space to deliver and we target that. Furthermore,  my professional experience means I’ve an idea what our partners are looking for so I’ve been able to understand their goals and marry them with our own academic ones.

How do you maintain and evolve that culture of creativity?

Parsons is filled with students and faculty who are compelled to innovate by their very nature. They are constantly looking for challenging problems that they can apply their design skills to elegantly solving. In the past these efforts were largely targeted at internal projects. Over the past four years we have worked hard to show the world what we do. With every success we get more requests and are able to be ever more selective about who we work with and what we do. Hence the projects become more attractive and the quality goes ever upward.

Where did you find inspiration (or the models) for these changes?

My professional career involved working with Zegna in Italy, Fila in New York and Italy, Nike in Asia, Greg Norman in New York, Marks and Spencer in London and may others. From each I learned a little or a lot. Taken together I have a rich source of inspiration for all that we do at Parsons. If I was to point to a couple of examples I think the absolute commitment to quality that was part of the Marks and Spencer culture and the dedication to excellence that was part of Nike’s culture were particularly inspiring. I’ve picked up small tips along the way and they never quite leave my mind (You are your own brand, Bloom where you are planted, Bring value to the process, Just Do it etc). Cliches perhaps, but no less true for all that.

Thanks Simon!

Simon Collins@SimonCollins08

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