!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Using Design Thinking to Boost Innovation

Monday, June 09, 2008

Using Design Thinking to Boost Innovation

The Harvard Business Review article mentioned in yesterday's post is "Design Thinking," by Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO.

Brown's thesis is that by practicing design thinking — "a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity" — firms structure their innovation efforts in a way that maximizes the productivity of those efforts, not to mention in a way that meets people's needs better and solves problems better. Since innovation is increasingly the basis for growth in developed economies, handling the innovation process well is crucial to firms' success in countries like the US, Germany, and Japan.

Brown explains the three elements of design thinking:
  1. Inspiraton — Put together a multidisciplinary team (e.g., engineering, marketing IT), and have the team address questions like: What's the business problem? Where's the opportunity? What has changed (or may soon change)? How can we enhance this product (or experience or service)? It is essential to use direct observation of consumers to develop a deep understanding of their needs and preferences. What you're looking for in this phase are fresh insights that can be the basis for successful innovation.

  2. Ideation — The process of generating, developing, and testing ideas that may led to solutions to the problem or opportunity. Test variations of an idea through rapid prototyping. "The goal of prototyping isn't to finish. It is to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea and to identify new directions that further prototypes might take." The team seeks feedback on each prototype from interested parties.

  3. Implementation — Charting a path to market. This is the phase in which a business strategy is formulated and communicated to the rest of the organization. (You can read more about Brown's views on strategy formulation here.)
Note that the process outlined above is iterative. The team can expect to circle back through all three phases, especially phases 1 and 2.

Design thinking is a complement to analytical thinking, which is data- and planning-based. Although Brown does not describe the training in design thinking provided to the individuals participating in the case situations he describes in his article, it is clear that teachability is not an issue as far as he's concerned. He mentions holding workshops to teach the fundamental concepts, and he recommends having design thinkers experience all three phases of the process, which will help them build judgment over time.


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