Q&A: Making Progress | A Documentary on Innovation by 31Volts

Making Progress (Dutch Trailer) | A Documentary by 31Volts | Premiers 12 September 2013

Innovation is a concept that is often misconstrued. Commonly affiliated with the latest technological advancements, the innovative process far exceeds the invention of consumer products. As a matter of fact, innovation, by definition, can also be achieved through the development of systems, services and paradigms across a myriad of sectors that have a great impact on society as a whole.

In order to better understand the secrets of innovation, Dutch service design agency 31Volts embarked on their first ever feature film Making Progress. Premiering in Utrecht on 12 September 2013 , this unique documentary puts a spotlight on the unsung heroes of innovation –from food technologists and game developers to modern-day explorers– and their extraordinary efforts in building a brighter future. The culmination of their expertise and shared experiences are genuinely aimed at making progress a reality. ✌

Marcel Zwiers, creative director of 31Volts tells us more:

Making Progress delves into the world of innovation and the intricate process behind it. As a service design agency, what inspired 31volts to make this documentary?

I don’t know if it is a service design kind of thing to want to make this documentary. However, we do operate on the frontline of the developments within the design community. Service design is the new kid on the block.

On top of that service design, for our clients, is the stepping-stone towards the development of a designedly approach for innovation. Because of that, we do reflect a lot on our work, our position within the community but also on the value we create. 

What we found was that designers have a specific set of tools and an approach you won’t see in any other field. Or not? The questions we asked ourselves were: What is that makes us designers comfortable in dealing with the unknown, the future we are creating but do not know yet? What is it that we designers are known for – our learning-by-doing way of working? Are these aspects of design that exclusive for us designers?

By talking to people who are known for their innovative qualities (although not often seen by most of us), we wanted to learn from them. What is their secret? What is their approach towards the wicked problems we are facing in this world? And what is it that they actually do? By making this journey into a documentary, we are able to share our experiences, our lessons and our insights with all of you.

The film presents interviews with pioneers and innovators from a variety of disciplines. Why were these experts featured in particular?

We invited these people because we knew about them a little and we had a hunch that they where able to reflect on their work and talk about that. All of them proved us right in that sense. We also tried to find people outside our regular field of work, which is why there are people with very different fields of expertise in the documentary.

Innovation has always been associated with the latest technology, which by definition is not only the case. How important is innovation to society as a whole?

You are absolutely right by saying that innovation is often related to a product or an invention, for example. While that is fine by me, we do miss an important part of the story. You see, the final result is something one can celebrate very easily. It’s like a successful pop song on top of the charts. But, what is it that made that success? What is it that we can get good at in order to come up with even more successful innovations?

So our main focus in making the documentary was on the capabilities, the approach and the things one needs to make progress. By exploring this, we were hoping to find lessons we can all learn from. Not just personally or for 31Volts, but for us all. Because yes, being able to deal with the future and knowing how to create value will bring this society prosperity. Happier people!

The theme of the documentary suggests that progress is the result of successful innovation. How is success defined in this context?

That is a very good question. Just like value, success might be seen as financial wealth – economic growth, represented in Euros. We do not look at it that way. Success for us is when one creates something that is valuable for people that serves a need, making life more valuable. This might be small, but also very big. For example, the documentary features Geert Kops, a scientist who tries to beat cancer by getting better understanding of how cells divide. His success will be measured by the health gain for people and society as a whole.

In our work as service designers, we help organizations become more valuable for their clients. That is progress.

Finally, the process of design involves creativity and innovation. Can one exist without the other?

Well, actually it is innovation that involves design, so it is the other way around. A true innovation is coming up with something that is relevant and valuable for people and business. Design, as we see it, is the best way to get there fast. For us design is a verb, an act, a way of working where creativity meets analysis.


☞ For more information on Making Progress and 31Volts, visit the websites below:

Making Progress



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