Alumni Profile: Greg Caputo

Our discipline is Integrative Systems + Design. What does that mean to you?

Simply put, it means the ability to recognize who my real customers are. Unlike some ecosystem theories that rely on identifying all stakeholders who are touched by or play a role in a given experience, Integrative Systems + Design gives you the tools to understand who has the most to gain from your involvement and where you may be influencing unintended consequences. There are always trade offs, and the field gives you quantitative methods to navigate these tradeoffs and methods rooted in product engineering to train you in the art and science of creating truly innovative, signature experiences.

Why is the field of ISD so important?

ISD eliminates the fluff surrounding human-centered design. It is not a mindset, it is a discipline that is proven to identify ideas that are ahead of its time. Without the rigor and proof points of ISD, the practice of human-centered design in the corporate world runs the risk of being nothing more than a marketing scheme.  

What is the future of ISD? Where will it be ten years from now? 25 years from now?

ISD tends to be ahead of its time, thus answering this question requires us to think 20 and 50 years into the future. Given the radical change we are seeing in global climate and public health, I view ISD influencing society in a way that is similar to the adoption of digital technologies. Digital technologies have advanced at a rate that exceeds which users are able to comprehend and find suitable uses for the technology. Similarly, ISD will be charged with solving the wicked problems that no single organization is equipped to face on its own. The idea of cross-industry collaboration will hopefully not be as new of a concept and ISD will be there to supplement the traditional educational programs of today.

What is the value the field of ISD provides to society?

ISD applies stakeholder theory in a way that benefits corporations and customers. For example, with ESG being top of mind, executives versed in integrative systems design will learn how to design and implement holistic solutions that push the productivity frontier (i.e. develop sustainable solutions that are not just the result of increased costs).  ESG strategies that are not thought through with an ecosystem lens run the risk of being perceived as Greenwashing efforts. In other words, ISD makes this kind of innovation real and attainable.

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in ISD?

I am passionate about business model innovation and cannot think of a better degree to prepare me for the future. The methods and tools learned in my ISD degree have been invaluable in my early career.

How has your ISD degree helped you in your career?

I have found it has helped me ask better questions, be able to see the bigger picture earlier than expected, and most importantly, maintain a constant level of curiosity throughout delivering any given project.

What specific lessons did you learn during your ISD education that you apply regularly in your career?

The quality-functional deployment, ecosystem mapping, product positioning charts, and quantitative methods in decision theory.

Why would you recommend UM’s ISD to a prospective student or corporate partner?

The resources at the University of Michigan are top-notch, and in a cross-disciplinary program like ISD, it is important to think broadly about the resources available to you even beyond any one of the colleges in isolation. To prospective corporate partners, I would say you will struggle to find a population of students that will take less time to train and the problem-solving skills generated in this school will allow new hires from ISD to deliver immediate value to your organizations.

What are the best qualities of an ISD graduate?

ISD alumni have an uncanny level of empathy and curiosity. They make great dinner party guests, especially if you are looking for friends that can help you come up with the next big idea.

Why did you choose to join the ISD Alumni Board?

I want to help make sure ISD is as successful as it should be and gets the attention that it deserves within the University and beyond.