Tuesday 24 November 2020
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M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) PHD program Studies “User Innovation” in Kayaking…

In 2003, in Graz, Austria, while competing at the World Freestyle Championships (I got 4th that year) I was contacted and interviewed (face to face) by a Grad Student from Germany, named Christoph Hienerth (an Austrian Freestyle kayaker now living in Denmark).    He was asking some very technical questions and it was the first time in my kayak manufacturing (I was working at Wavesport as co-designer with David Knight over the past 6 years and was “Director” of Wavesport at the time under the Confluence umbrella) that somebody took such a technical interest in what we were doing.  He was asking about the design process, about what kinds of things we figured out ourselves, as paddlers, etc. etc..   I was paddling the Transformer at the time, where David Knight and I created the first prototypes ourselves in his backyard out of a XXX.    This caught his attention, I think, and over the next 6 years, I would be randomly(it seemed to me)  interviewed by Christoph.    Finally, at some point in the process,  I was invited by Eric von Hipple, Professor of Technological Innovation at the Sloan School of Management (at MIT) to come for a final day of interviews, etc.. and was joined by historians in kayaking, Kent Ford and Sue Taft, as well as designer over many years, Corran Addison.    The room was filled with some of the leading corporate managers of innovation/R+D departments from food stuffs, to military, computers, high tech, etc..  It was a great experience to be among so many creative and intelligent, educated, hard working people in that one area of industry- innovation.

The study I am attaching here is not designed for the average reader.  It won’t be very interesting unless you really want to dig in and read/understand what they were doing and why, and actually care about it.    I find it very fun to read and see what kind of pre-dispositions Christoph had, or didn’t have, and wondered if he would drive the data to support any particular conclusion.    In my discussions with the group, and Eric Von Hipple in particular (If I were to go back to school, I would go to MIT just to have him as a professor) he was very challenging towards my opinion that I am a user innovator first, and a business innovator second.     We argued and discussed it from many angles, and had some very good conversations and I still feel there is another category that I fit into, besides the two main categories discussed in the paper.   This was a thorough paper with lots of time and energy by Christoph and a team at MIT.   It isn’t Jackson Kayak centric.   It is a feel good piece about how we, as kayakers, are innovators and creators of our own technology, from carving our own hip pads, to making happy thrusters, to boat designs, etc.. and that for all paddlers who try to improve their kayaks/gear themselves this is a testament to their innovative abilities….

Here is the link: