Innovation comes along with uncertainty, there's no clear script to follow. It's a black box out in the future that needs to be defined, envisioned, analyzed, synthesized, iterated, tested and finally launched. You need the appropriate mindset to embrace uncertainty in the midst of the work and to avoid overly simplifying the creative process, which is crucial to every innovation process, in order to stay within the comfort zone. Because the function of design is to create for the future, designers are used to starting from scratch by connecting disparate dots, embracing the vagueness of information and managing ambiguity. Of course, the process of innovating is not a individual endeavor, but a collaborative team effort.
At the d.school, a "hub for innovators at Stanford", students and faculty from diverse fields (engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, sciences, education) use a methodology for innovation that combines creative and analytical approaches. Human values are at the heart of the collaborative approach, which has been called design thinking. Design Thinking draws on methods from engineering and design, and combines them with ideas from the arts, along with tools from the social sciences, and insights from the business world.
The d.school "bootcamp bootleg" suggests the following mindset for innovators:
show, don't tell - be visual, create experience and tell great stories
focus on human values - develop empathy for the people you design for and get feedback
embrace experimentation - build prototypes to think and learn, to take your idea to the next level
craft clarity - create a coherent vision out of messy problems framed to inspire and to fuel ideation
bias towards action - it is about make + do over think + meet
be mindful of process - know where you are, what method to use and why it makes sense
radical collaboration - bring together people with various backgrounds and viewpoints
It is important for design professionals to avoid building design silos while their business and engineering counterparts are slowly starting to tear their silos down. Designers with open minds are great team players in the game of innovation and moreover, their creative and inspiring mindset can be contagious!
Our world is changing at high speed: everything is interconnected and complex. It is a human need to keep thinks simple and understandable. This counts for new products and services just as for the collaborative innovation process itself. As the process is not following a stage gate or waterfall structure and has no clear script or check list to follow, the design skills of structuring, visualizing and sharing complex information are a high value for the entire group.
design thinking: not exactly a stage gated approach
Interviews with design thinkers and design thinking coaches of a multinational software corporation, identified 'presentation and documentation' as a crystallized painpoint. 'A lot of ideas get lost', 'shareholders only see the decided upon direction', 'the process is not transparent', 'it's hard to follow up if there has been a break in the process', 'we have no idea if a similar project has happened and what the outcome was', 'it's hard to coach or be involved in the process and at the same time put together a presentation for stakeholders or other groups','post-its with visuals don't digitize well' were some common responses.
A designer participating in the process can wrap up the most important outcomes of a phase or workshop day in a visual way allowing the group to easily continue or connect to what has been discovered so far - even if there has been one of those 'inevitable breaks' (which are hard to avoid working in a multidisciplinary team). Mindmaps, storyboards or graphic recordings are great tools to document an overview, to make connections between visible dots, to simplify without loosing important content. It's not important to keep every single post-it of a workshop week - they are just tools for thought, but roll out a storyboard and sum up the learnings, insights and ideas in a few minutes and your team and your stakeholders will be well prepared for the next step.
When people talked about innovation in the '90s, they really meant technology. When people talk about innovation in this decade, they really mean design.
source: Bruce Nussbaum, BusinessWeek
Innovation mainly occurs on the levels of processes, products and services, brands and business models. The goal of innovation is to achieve a competitive advantage. The problem of our times is that those advantages won't last long and innovative processes, products and business models can easily be copied or slightly changed as IT tools, tools and services are available to everybody, especially to the emerging markets. Speed has dramatically increased, innovation cycles have become shorter and shorter.
In our fast changing world, with its increasing hunger for innovation, an organization using only analytical management practices to enhance efficiency like ERP, CRM and six sigma won't succeed in the market in the long run. Leaders are aware of that missing out on innovation bears a high risk to success. The success of brands and businesses is highly dependent on customer satisfaction, on how their products, services and brands are experienced by the customer. Design is the way to build this bridge to the customer, to discover his needs and wants. Strategic design is a competitive advantage.
Design and business challenges increasingly need to be approached in a more integrated manner. Workshop moderation is an evolving opportunity for designers who want to work on a more strategic level. To set up a workshop, to design agendas and activities, to facilitate a diverse group and to create effective solutions needs strong communication skills and quiet a bit of psychological insights.
The challenges in facilitation start with the brief, often with the question of whether problem space and solution space are really open and e.g. Design Thinking is the right approach, followed by the question who can/ should be on the team. Investing in briefing and clear communication of project parameters, before the project gets to the starting line, is always a good idea.
Besides knowing the process, tools and methods, coaches need resources, strategies and insights to guide people effectively through a collaborative process. A good coach needs to enable and empower participants to take responsibility for their outcomes. It is crucial to understand underlying group dynamics, bring everybody to the same page, develop trust and empathy within a team, guide the team through difficult phases of frustration and the feeling of getting lost. Every team hereby has to go through four stages (according to Tuckman's model of team development and behaviour, Dr. Bruce Tuckman 1965). Team members that are aware of what stage they are currently in and what the group's particular dynamics are, have a better chance of collaborating successfully.
forming (team is dependent on coach)
storming (coach mediates and focuses)
norming (coach facilitates)
performing (coach delegates)
A design background combined with strong communication skills prepares well for a deeper dive into moderation. Designers bring knowledge and design methods to the process, and ideally spark the 'creative confidence' of the (hopefully T-shaped) group members.
Creativity is the spirit, the attitude and bravery to try something new, to be open to the unexpected. Design is the creative act, the ‘making’ of and bringing something new to the world, wheater its a product, service or business model. Design thinking is the ‘how to’, the approach, the mindset and behaviors on the way.
All three of them will come into play in the type of next generations workers and innovators. It won’t be owned by a certain group of people - creativity is something everybody has.