Peter Skillman: Status is the death of innovation

May 24, 2024

It is a misunderstanding to think that the more features a device has, the better the product,” says Peter Skillman, Global Head of Design at Philips. Skillman was one of the experts who gave a subsession during the ICT&health World Conference, which took place from May 14 to 16 at the MECC Maastricht. Under the title 'GenAI from a Designer's Perspective,' Skillman provided insights into the thinking of a designer.

In fact, in his presentation he combined his passion for design with the recent developments of GenAI. First and foremost, he provided insights into how to approach issues and design: “It is not about what we do, but how we do it. It is important that you apply the method of 'following your customer'. By this I mean that you look from a distance and start observing who your customer actually is. Then you look at what the customer needs most. Think about how you can best find out about this. When developing something new, it is also important that you test a lot in the initial phase and are not afraid of making mistakes. In the initial phase, mistakes made are easier to correct and often cheaper. Another misunderstanding when designing is that you cannot leave things out. But honestly, leaving out parts or features makes a prototype better. Not everything that is devised is actually something that the customer asks for.”

The struggle for status is the death of innovation

A packed room of about a hundred people listened breathlessly to the apparently logical reasoning. Skillman illustrates that things often turn out differently in practice using an example in which two groups were asked how they were going to come up with a solution to an issue. One group consisted of children from group 8 of primary school, the other group consisted of students from a business school.

When Skillman asked the audience which group worked most efficiently, an unexpected answer came. “It is precisely the primary school pupils who are tackling this proactively. There was no discussion about positions there first. No fighting over who should be in charge. And that is often a pitfall 'power'. That struggle for status is the death of innovation,” Skillman believes.

AI is a magic word

Skillman has an extensive career in various disciplines. He has worked for IDEO and Windows, among others. “I've been standing here talking for ten minutes now, but I haven't said anything about AI yet. Do you know why? AI is a magic word. It can be a distraction from what's really going on. In addition, healthcare is the most complex discipline I have worked in to date. There are so many interests at play and it is about people's health.”

Skillman has also had to 'think about' his work. How does AI fit into the process of designing and developing new applications? Using a few examples, he shows, for example, how the water in a static photo comes into motion thanks to AI. These developments also have a downside. One of these is that human input to AI can lead to outcomes that may be stereotypical. “We should not forget this ethical aspect of AI. We design our solutions to benefit people's health and well-being and to contribute to the sustainable development of society. This means that we must design AI solutions that empower people, but with appropriate human supervision.”

By innovation partner