January 31, 2017

Or, how to innovate using design

Designers often develop innovative breakthroughs in an evolutionary manner through insight gained during experimentation / prototyping, which cannot be predicted. However, managers and experts, often prevent experimentation for fear of wasting resources on nothing better than a hunch.

Innovation is the basis for economic growth. Never more true than in today’s world, the ability to innovate successfully decides the survival of companies. Industry leaders single out innovation as the most important driver of competitiveness as well as their number one job priority. On the other hand, the ability to embrace the unknown and work toward uncertain goals, is usually expunged within organisations as the cost / benefit analysis is uncertain or wholly missing.

Case studies of how designers arrived at their solutions revealed that significant insight, which allowed advancement of the designs, were typically gained while building and testing a possible approach, rather than while planning it, and that these insights were often unexpected. This suggests, that in order to create new concepts, designers have to go beyond the theory and implement their ideas so that they can learn from their experiments to create new ideas and advance the design. (Which is how start-ups work.) The fact that many important insights are unexpected suggest that designers have limited ability to plan for insight discovery, which makes it challenging for them to justify their actions and use of resources, before they actually build and test. (Which is why it is difficult for established companies to work like start-ups.)

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 09.16.16

“But there’s a shift under way in large organizations, one that puts design much closer to the center of the enterprise. But the shift isn’t about aesthetics. It’s about applying the principles of design to the way people work.

This new approach is in large part a response to the increasing complexity of modern technology and modern business. That complexity takes many forms. Sometimes software is at the center of a product and needs to be integrated with hardware (itself a complex task) and made intuitive and simple from the user’s point of view (another difficult challenge). Sometimes the problem being tackled is itself multi-faceted: Think about how much tougher it is to reinvent a health care delivery system than to design a shoe. And sometimes the business environment is so volatile that a company must experiment with multiple paths in order to survive.” – Harvard Business Review

The conclusion, which has been drawn by different business leaders in different industries in different countries, is all the same: it is no longer the large that win over the small. It is the fast, that win over the slow. Using design thinking and design methods to improve processes within the production of products and services with the single minded focus of improving the customer and employee experience, is a fast way to innovation.