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Apple Industrial Designer Miklu Silvanto discusses why companies need a systemic approach to innovation, how iconic companies build iconic cultures, and the importance of “serious curiosity.” Silvanto is joining Gemic’s partnership and the board of directors with a mandate to develop Gemic’s approach to futuring. Silvanto will also support Gemic clients.

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Silvanto spent the past decade working at Apple’s famed Industrial Design team, reporting to Jony Ive. At Apple, Silvanto oversaw the development of several consumer products that are now integral parts of our everyday lives. He also worked at AirBnB where he built and led an industrial and interaction design team for the Samara initiative.

Championing a systemic approach to innovation

Silvanto firmly believes that the world needs a new approach to innovation. “Most of our crises are systemic and the new solutions can’t be built on top of broken models.” Corporations now need to think and build systemically as well: they need to understand the systems that shape contemporary life and design solutions with those systems in mind. 

“Leaders in business or politics simply can’t ignore their responsibility to lead more systemic change and measure value more broadly and fairly.” A truly systemic approach to innovation means thinking and designing more inclusively. It means investigating different perspectives. “Gemic is unique in their ability to understand both the individual human and collective, systemic change from so many perspectives. We can build bold new models together without losing sight of the innate wisdom in humanity.”

Silvanto will champion this approach even further at Gemic. “I believe the best design navigates and leads societal and technological shifts and, at all times, stands for the human, including future generations of humans. Great design inspires care. It enables all stakeholders to do the right thing. This is what I wish to accomplish at Gemic.”

Honing how companies build on their cultural strengths

From his years at Apple, Silvanto learned the ways in which iconic companies build iconic cultures. At Gemic, he hopes to help companies turn their values into strengths.

Iconic companies have clear and honest stories about what matters to them. Companies thrive when they understand what they stand for, what makes them unique, and what their vision is for a better world.

“Products are always expressions of what the company values deep down, what it celebrates, what it rewards. Genuine care carries from the maker to the customer via the product and service. You can’t copy care; you have to deeply care.”

One way that Apple tapped into their cultural strengths was by creating environments that enabled people to learn and do their best work. “So much of what I can see and do in the world comes from learning from other human beings. In Jony (Ive), I had the leader and ‘bigger brother’ that I had been looking for who had the confidence to put my growth and my ability to contribute in the center of our relationship to the benefit of a shared goal. He gave me clear feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. And provided a model for leadership that I put to use in my projects.” 

Encouraging companies to prioritize “serious curiosity”

Silvanto is an advocate of what he calls “serious curiosity,” which is at odds with many of the innovation labs being built today. “Innovation without a continuous effort to maintain and refine what has already been invented doesn’t create sustained results. Greatness takes so much discipline, so much ownership and bravery, and then invention requires letting go of what worked before.”

Serious curiosity is a commitment to continuous improvement. “Central to my worldview is this idea that every model we have created is wrong, but some are very useful. That everything is in flux and can be improved or changed. That between our values and our actions the limitations are often illusions. That we have the power and responsibility to build a better way and ultimately that observation creates reality.”

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