This week’s Idea Storm blog will focus on the role of a Design Thinking and innovation. Before I share my thoughts, I want to highlight an article that I came across: “An introduction to Design Thinking for Innovation Managers” by Paul Hobcraft. It gives a comprehensive overview of Design Thinking and Innovation and I encourage you to give it a read… it is undoubtedly of more use than my ramblings below.
For the last decade or more, innovation has been a hot topic and buzz word, but I must say that when I hear that a company is an innovative company or that we need to come up with something innovative, it makes me groan. What does that actually mean? Is it just a trendy word that people and companies use to make them and managers feel like they are doing something special?
I once worked with a colleague at a company who also said that we needed to “focus on the low hanging fruit”. He would say this and then nod solemnly and I would always be thinking - but what is the low hanging fruit? Is there a tree outside the window or is there really an obvious easy opportunity that I wasn’t seeing? I often feel the same way when people and companies talk about innovation.
From Wikipedia, innovation can be defined simply as a “new idea, device or method”. Now this to me is incredibly difficult and, if this a true definition of what innovation is, then there are very few innovations out there and we are putting ourselves under incredible pressure trying to come up with something innovative. Like Solomon from the Bible said thousands of years ago - “There is nothing new under the sun”.
Putting things together differently
For me, this quote talks about innovation in the way that I see it:
Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way. - Tom Freston
This is a more easily attainable type of innovation but one that can deliver incredible results. How many new things can be created or made in the world? Taking existing things and using them differently, I believe, is the key to innovation.
This can apply to a new product being made from other products, create a new user interface or restructuring a team or company.
The role of design thinking?
Researching customers and getting their input – the empathy step of design thinking – is to me the most crucial step for innovation. How are customers using the product and what would make it better? How do customers want to navigate the application? How do customers want to engage with our team?
Yesterday I was looking at a marketing solution from one of the major software providers in the world and I was really impressed with the following things:
The user interface was clean and easy to use.
They incorporated Customer Journey Mapping directly into their marketing solution.
They had persona’s directly in the tool and they were used both for putting the marketing program together but also for looking at the persona group’s behaviour related to the marketing initiatives.
While these three things are not unique and there are other impressive customer-focused aspects to the tool; it is the way that they work together that makes them innovative.
One of the founders of this software company is a Design Thinking advocate, and associated with Stanford (the home of design thinking) and other universities across the world including UCT in Cape Town South Africa. The company also actively trains their staff in Design Thinking. Is it a coincidence that this company seems to be coming up with really good solutions?
Once the customer’s requirements are known, then the other stages of the Design Thinking process can be followed from Definition and Ideation through to Prototyping and Testing.
Not too difficult?
Hopefully this helps us to see innovation in a different light. Everyone can come up with ideas and be creative, therefore we can also all be innovators! We can take existing things, add new small elements into the solution, use them together differently and the magic will happen!
You and I – we can all be innovators!
The views of this blog are my own and don’t represent the views of the company I work for.