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Lecturers develop new visual alphabet for innovation

Posted September 2, 2015

Two lecturers lacked tools to teach their students about innovation processes. They therefore decided to initiate their own innovative project aimed at developing a visual alphabet for supporting innovation and learning processes.

The new visual alphabet is the brainchild of Associate Professor Mai-Mai Ulrich and Assistant Professor Villads Keiding, both lecturers on the Process and Innovation BEng study programme. Entitled VINCA, the alphabet was originally the name of an ancient written language from Southeast Europe.


“We teach the students about innovation processes and realized that this is a very difficult concept to grasp. What does the term process mean? What is a process? In other words, we needed to find out how we could clarify innovation processes for our students. And that’s when we came up with the idea of developing a visual alphabet,” says Mai-Mai Ulrich.

Symbols and magnetic pieces
VINCA is a physical tool that uses pieces with signs and symbols to clarify the different innovation phases. The pieces are magnetized so they can be used on a whiteboard.

“VINCA focuses on innovation as a process and not on the results. I like to say that you need to think innovation as a verb—not as a noun. It is a tool for teaching the students how to arrive at the results,” explains Villads.

VINCA development is far from over. The alphabet is continually being developed with the help of user feedback, resulting in new magnetic pieces, for example. And as the visual alphabet is used for several different types of projects, there will be a need for several types of process signs, according to the two enterprising lecturers.

Virtual platform in the pipeline
However, the lecturers’ ambitions do not stop here, as they are hoping to develop a virtual version of the physical alphabet.

“We are planning to develop a virtual VINCA platform. Here it will be possible to attach descriptions of the individual processes and share knowledge with others, thus enabling users to work actively with the processes in a virtual environment,” explains Villads.

Great interest among potential users
VINCA is currently being used as a teaching tool on several Process and Innovation courses.  However, interest in the small magnetic pieces with squares, arrows and thought bubbles is not limited to DTU. VINCA has already found its way to several partners in Denmark and several potential users have already contacted the developers.

Source: DTU

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