Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Innovation Goes Beyond Bright Ideas

Innovation Goes Beyond Bright IdeasWhen organizations talk about innovation, they are referring to generating bright ideas. They spend time thinking “out of the box” and hope to come up with a brilliant new idea.  But innovation is not the Idea; it’s more than that. Innovation goes beyond bright ideas by combining processes with creative minds to breathe life into something that makes life easier, days brighter, and helps organizations get closer to their goals.

In other words, you have to do something with those bright ideas. They need to transform into something of value to your organization and customers. Do you have a process in place to do that?

Transforming Bright Ideas Into Value

Don’t think that bright ideas aren’t valuable. It’s quite the opposite. Ideation is a necessary step in the innovation process, but it’s only one step.

In the Ideate stage, you’re collecting ideas from your source community. That may be your internal employees, your external customers, or both. The goal is to get as many ideas as you can so that you can find a few nuggets to explore in depth.

However, you need to have a strategy and plan for implementing and maximizing those ideas for real innovation to happen. You’ll need to create a team that can help you determine the practicality of each idea, and evaluate the value that the idea can bring. You’ll want to define which stakeholders need to be involved in the process, and how you’ll communicate information to those who need to know.

Once you have a strategy and plan in place to evaluate and communicate your bright ideas, you’ll need to determine what resources you have available to implement new processes. It’s important to commit to an idea not just up front, but over the long term.

When creating your implementation team, be sure to look for motivated team members that represent all of the vital departments involved. Have a cross-functional team that can help you foresee and avoid potential problems, as well as support you when the changes roll out.

Finally, you’ll need to execute the new idea and evaluate its effectiveness. You can see if it measures up to the predictions or if it falls short, and how it can be tweaked to maximize impact.

Through all of these steps, you’ll need to be highly organized. Having the right tools and processes in place as you innovate is essential.

Systematizing the Process

Most business leaders realize that they need to systematize their daily operations if they want to have consistent, high-quality results. However, they don’t apply that same thinking to innovation, and it costs them a great deal of time and money in the long run.

Too many people think innovation by nature has to be spontaneous and can’t be predicted or planned. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you can easily create a system that you follow for every innovation project that will help you succeed. Here’s one process:

  • Ideate. Gather bright ideas from your source community, either internal staff or external contributors.
  • Build a Team. Gather a team to help you evaluate the ideas and prepare them for implementation.
  • Refine. Refine the most promising ideas and collect detailed information about how implementation would happen.
  • Estimate. Determine the resources needed for each idea today as well as in the future.
  • Review. Key stakeholders make the final decision on what idea or ideas will move forward.
  • Fund. Ideas are funded and implemented.
  • Archive. Details about the project are stored so that lessons can be learned for future innovation projects.

Generating bright ideas is an essential first step to innovation success. But you can’t stop there. You have to go beyond the idea and establish a solid process to evaluate and implement them. One that includes communication, organization, and commitment.

To turn bright ideas into value, you need to create a solid process that works for your organization. Download the Sample Idea Process to get started today.




5 Must-Watch TED Talks to Inspire Your Innovation Team

These talks can inspire innovation.

Open innovation can be a tricky business. Innovation can be elusive, and sometimes your team needs a push to get back in the zone. If that’s the case, sit down with these TED talks to get that spark back.

Navi Radjou

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a old adage about innovation, but it’s not one we often think about. Radjou, however, has seen it in action. In his talk on “jugaad,” the Hindu word for improvised solutions, he spins out how flexible thinking and focusing on what you have, not what you do, can allow you to innovate. Especially when you’re dealing with a limited budget, or feel frustrated with your progress, this talk can shift your perspective.

Charles Leadbeater

One of the misperceptions about innovation is that major new products and new markets leap fully formed from the mind of one brilliant innovator. Leadbeater shows that’s not the case by exploring the history of the mountain bike. It started out not as a new product from the top cycle manufacturers, but a jury-rigged, de facto crowdsourced effort by California bikers frustrated with bikes that fell apart on trails, and invented widely scorned “clunkers” to get over tough mountain trails. Leadbeater reminds us that innovation doesn’t rise from one mind, but many working in collaboration to find solutions to mutual problems.

Amy Tan

Every novelist gets the question of “Where do you get your ideas?” Most of them scoff at it as an amateur question from a novice writer, but Tan, while discussing the flawed premise in the question, takes a strong and incisive look at her own creative process and how it’s changed, and hasn’t, over the years. Much of what Tan discusses when it comes to creativity, and how it comes from surprising places, is both an inspiration and a reminder that how we innovate is a unique process for each of us — and figuring out those processes is ironically part of creativity itself.

Get your innovative juices flowing with these talks!

Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley undeniably is the master of the catchy title (We’ll let you discover the title of this talk for yourself.) But underneath the base appeal, Ridley is really talking about how innovation doesn’t happen in the absence of other ideas, but often in the presence of another one. Instead of looking at each piece individually, Ridley encourages innovators to examine their ideas in context and see what happens when they mix and match. At the very least you find yourself with a clever title.

Kirby Ferguson

With innovation, it’s easy to get stuck on the concept of creating a wholly original idea. Kirby Ferguson, though, argues that you should let that belief and instead accept that everything we do, from our simplest concepts, is really a “remix,” building on the ideas that have come before that we’ve absorbed and that we reconfigure, twist and redesign into our own unique takes. Kirby calls it embracing the remix, and it’s a challenge to anybody who thinks that an idea isn’t “original” enough to be worth considering.

Inspired by these talks? Ready to innovate? Join an IdeaScale community to get started.

Designing at an Innovation Management Company


innovation mangement

When I joined IdeaScale in late spring of this year, I set out to discover how I could help our customers create and maintain an innovative culture at their company through our crowdsourcing tools. I also set out to discover how I could influence culture at IdeaScale to better support design methodologies and best practices necessary in building successful products. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about designing at an innovation management company so far.

Being the only designer can be rough. As the only designer on my team, I tend to design on an island. I’m outnumbered by sales reps, account managers, and overseas developers. Besides my manager, there aren’t team members I can easily turn to for feedback and guidance. This presents a challenge to my work process because design is an iterative process, and constructive criticism is crucial in order to make progress.

As a solo designer, my role is to teach my team about design. In lieu of having a larger design team, my role is to empower other departments to give feedback and criticism on projects I’m working on. To do this requires a bit of extra work: educating my team on how and why certain exercises and research methods are used, how to give useful criticism during critiques, and even just establishing regular critiques as part of an office routine.

Design thinking fundamentals should be embedded in product design.  Introducing customer interviews to guide IdeaScale’s product has been the first step in educating team members about product design. Product design can’t be successful without customer input. It sounds like a no-brainer, but until I spoke to our customers, their experience with our software had not been a part of the design or development process. For instance, most of our customers believe they are purchasing a crowdsourcing platform — and they are. They can use IdeaScale to crowdsource ideas from within their organization or sometimes from the public, and then follow voting trends to see which ideas float to the top. But what some customers do not realize is that beyond finding popular ideas, our platform gives them the opportunity to grow a culture around innovation. Voting for ideas and honing in on the popular ones aren’t the cornerstones of creating that culture — taking care of the people who participate in posting and sharing those ideas is.

Adopting design methodologies can strengthen our product offering. “Taking care of the people” was an insight I uncovered after conducting my first round of customer interviews. Out of all the interviews, there was surprisingly little to no mention of ideas with popular votes. Popular votes did not influence the day-to-day work of administrating and moderating activity within an IdeaScale community. Of course voting is a powerful refinement tool in a sea of hundreds of idea submissions. However, I learned that the goal of many of our successful customers is making sure community members feel they are valued and being listened to, regardless of whether or not their idea garners many votes. This insight highlighted areas of weakness in our current product, and heavily influenced our roadmap moving forward.

Incorporating user research has been a monumental design-thinking change for IdeaScale, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. As a designer, I still have big questions I seek to answer. What are our design principles? How do we define our product’s voice? Can we look at our roadmap and answer: Why us, why now, why this? Design cannot have a dignified role in our organization if these questions aren’t commonplace for everyone to answer.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Madeline Frechette, Product Designer at IdeaScale.

Why is it Important to Get to Market Fast

crowdsourcing-technology-coverTechnology moves at the speed of innovation. If you aren’t paying attention, you could be completely left behind. There are two huge reasons why it is important to get to market fast: to be the first and money.

Get to Market First

These days, being the first is often more important than being the best. For example, say you work for a tech company, and you’re working on a particular product. You’ve just about completed all of the research and development when suddenly another tech company releases a product very similar to your offering. Although your product may be entirely superior, and although you may have been working on and developing this product for longer than your competitor, the only thing the consumers will remember is that yours was not the first. If you release your product after they have released theirs, you will seem as though you are a follower, and not an innovator in the field at all. In order to stand out, you must do everything you can to expedite the process of innovating in order to be the first to market.

Get to Save and Make Money

Along those same lines, getting to market faster, specifically through using crowdsourcing to accelerate innovation, can save you money on both the front and back end of development. Traditionally, businesses hired expansive research and development teams, as well as going through extensive brainstorming sessions to attempt to figure out what products were in demand. Companies could be even 90% done with a project only to find there was not the demand they had anticipated. Not only had they wasted valuable hours, they’d also wasted money investing in an unviable idea. The solution? Get your ideas directly from the consumers! With ideas from your prime audience, you know the product you’re working towards will have demand. This saves you time and money on the front end. Then, after the shorter ideation and development of new products or projects, you can start recouping costs quicker and start turning a profit quicker with a product that was put on the market as quickly as safely and technologically possible. This makes you money on the front end.

To find out more about the myriad ways in which crowdsourcing can help improve your speed-to-market, click here to download a recent crowdsourcing and technology white paper.

Bringing the Futurist to Life: How to Think Beyond Past Innovations

ring the Futurist to Life and Think Beyond Past InnovationsToday’s rapidly changing environment often requires rethinking fundamental strategies and looking ahead to the next generation of products or services. Core elements of your operations may also need rapid reinvention to maintain the success you are currently enjoying. Innovation leaders must play the role of Futurist, anticipating disruptions and thinking beyond evolutionary improvements in order to secure and maintain their business’s competitive edge.

What is a Futurist?

A Futurist looks toward the future, scouts new opportunities, and brings future possibilities out of the fog so that everyone can see them and their potential. He or she enables people throughout the organization to discover the emerging trends that most impact their work.

Bringing the Futurist to Life

Playing the role of Futurist requires leaders to become comfortable going beyond what
they know and be interested in discovering something new. The leader’s role as a Futurist involves recognizing signals of the future, sharing the trends, encouraging others to seek trends, designing processes to share, and building a future-oriented culture.

Recognizing Signals of the Future

Leaders need to identify and respond to the signals of the future. They need to be able to scout trends that can impact the enterprise (e.g., robotics, sensors, big data, commercial drones, renewable energy, 3D printing, self-driving cars). Some of the tactics they use include:

  • Working with their teams to look in unexpected places for new and unanticipated trends.
  • Actively monitoring the external business environment to learn about emerging needs, technologies, competitors, and adjacent markets.
  • Engaging with customers to see how the most forward-looking ones are beginning to use your products or services, or to notice what else they might be using instead.
  • Getting to know the start-up companies working in garages, labs, and innovation incubators all over the world.
  • Being open to surprises that are filled with learning and innovation opportunities.

A Forward-Looking Culture

It’s not enough for one leader to recognize signals of the future. A Futurist must make trends visible for others and encourage people to be on the lookout for important trends themselves. Tactics used to create a forward-looking culture include:

  • Creating processes that make it easy for others to share what they’re thinking without judgment or negative consequences.
  • Making it easy to share that information, perhaps in meetings or in a platform like IdeaScale.
  • Ensuring that trends are brought into the organization on a regular basis.
  • Building a future-oriented culture, a dynamic enterprise, where people understand that “we are on the move and the only thing we can count on is change.”

There is something compelling about seeing new ideas and processes that other innovators are creating. The future has a sense of energy and excitement. Looking ahead tends to add momentum to the idea generation process that follows it. Once you and your innovators connect to the immense creativity occurring in your field, new ideas typically flow naturally from what you learn.

Failure to Think Future

Too often we see innovation initiatives that completely skip the “futuring” aspect. They ignore the true front end of the innovation process and move directly to idea generation. Winston Churchill once said, “Those that choose to build their present out of images of the past will miss the opportunities of the future.” Brainstorming based only on current conditions and customer needs runs the risk that the ideas created will not carry the company very far into the future.

The future will never look the way we imagine it. In fact, much of what we foresee in the future already exists in today’s leading edge companies. Some of the trends we see now will survive and thrive to become tomorrow’s standards, while others will quietly disappear. We can’t possibly predict the winners and losers, but the thinking we do to anticipate potential changes will prepare us for the actual future, as it becomes our new day-to-day reality. We’ll be in touch with the customers, know the potential partners, understand where to find or acquire the new technologies, and have teams with background knowledge ready, who can quickly put their learning to use to create new solutions.

Embracing Your Inner Futurist

You’ll often play the role of Futurist, even when you don’t intentionally mean to do so. Perhaps you’ll spot a trend as you read an industry article, or perhaps inspiration will come to you as you simply spend time enjoying a cup of your favorite beverage. Channeling your inner Futurist will allow you and your team to continuously think beyond the past so that you can invent a better future.

In the next installment of the Leading Innovation series, we’ll share the key traits of the Direction Setter role. If you’d rather not wait, download the entire chapter today.

This blog post is part of the Leading Innovation series authored by Laszlo Gyorffy, MS. Laszlo is president of the Enterprise Development Group, an international consulting firm specializing in business strategy and innovation. He also is an accomplished speaker, certified instructional designer and trainer, and co-author of Creating Value with CO-STAR: An Innovation Tool for Perfecting and Pitching your Brilliant Ideas and The Global Innovation Science Handbook. Laszlo recently developed the One Hour Innovator a cloud-based toolkit that teaches people how to successfully generate and champion bigger, bolder, and better ideas.



5 Epic Innovation Failures (And What We Can Learn From Them)

Every handshake is the beginning of something great. It just may take longer to get there than you realize.

Technological innovation can seem, in hindsight, like a straight line traveled on a clear path. But as you walk down it, you realize the path to brilliance isn’t clear, straight or well-lit, and the road is often paved with innovation failures. But when you stumble while innovating, you learn something. Here are just a few examples of companies that tripped, and how they got back to their feet, or didn’t.

The Apple Newton

The Newton was one of Apple’s many bold innovations. The idea was a “personal digital assistant,” an LCD computer that could read your handwriting and let you manage everything digitally instead of in a bulky calendar. After five years of terrible sales and handwriting and speech recognition bugs, Apple dropped the Newton in 1998.

The Lesson: Innovation sometimes needs technology to catch up with it. Look closely at the Newton, and you’ll see more than a few features Jobs spent years refining into the Newton’s successor, the much more popular, and equally pioneering, iPhone.

The Ford Edsel

The Edsel is probably the longest running joke in product innovation history. Bland, not really “for” anybody, and unclear as to the value, the Edsel was over-hyped, overpriced, and quickly swept off the market.

The Lesson: In product development strategy, don’t put hype ahead of substance. Often forgotten in laughing at the Edsel was that Ford spent a year teasing about how great it was, only to debut a product that didn’t live up to the hype and was basically just another car. If Ford had focused on who the Edsel was for, instead of marketing it, they might have had a real hit.

Facebook Home

Facebook, in a bid to compete with Apple and Google, tried to create their own phone operating system, built entirely around Facebook. They quickly learned most people want to visit Facebook, not live there.

The Lesson: Change management isn’t just changing things for the sake of doing it. Facebook Home was a great product from Facebook’s perspective, because they got more control over and data about what you saw and did online, but they never made it clear to users what benefit they got out of it. “Help improve our stock price” isn’t much of a product sales pitch.

Innovation is always a good idea, even if the benefits aren’t obvious at first.

Blockbuster Online

Blockbuster was once the titan of home video, but Netflix’s structure, where you mailed discs back and forth with no late fees, was driving them out of business. So they copied Netflix, but ran it just like their video stores, with heavy emphasis on new releases and ignoring the back catalog titles that built Netflix.

The Lesson: With innovation strategy, everything has to be on the table. Blockbuster copied its retail model exactly instead of innovating off of Netflix’s, because it refused to accept the industry might be changing. So instead of staying at the forefront, they got left behind.


Betamax is, by far, the most notorious flop in technology history. But on the surface, it’s baffling. It had better image and sound quality, it had better engineering than its competitor VHS, and yet, it lost completely.

The Lesson: Innovation matters in more than just technology. Betamax indeed lost the video war to VHS. But Betamax, reengineered as Betacam, was enormously popular at television stations and in video production and was the standard format across the world for decades. Would Sony have preferred to beat VHS in the lucrative home video market? Of course. But it found an audience willing to pay top dollar for the superior quality, and that’s a valuable reminder that there’s more than one way to sell tech.

Ready to innovate? IdeaScale can help. Download Creative Rewards to Incentivize Engagement to get started today!

How disruptive fitness innovations influence brand loyalty

fitness innovations

Fitness has been on a run of constant innovation of late. The industry has moved from body building, warehouse style gyms in the 70’s, to workout at home VHS tapes, to high end, class specific workouts. In the last fifteen years the industry has even created a sport, Crossfit! This broad evolution has helped breed fitness innovations that change the industry and influence brand loyalty.

The following three innovations helped tear down, instantly build, and adapt to brand loyalty, respectively:

1. Smartphones

Smartphones have revolutionized almost every industry, fitness included. Class Pass, a revolutionary company allows users to pay a monthly fee for access to a variety of gyms. This lets users try out different class styles, formats and instructors without having to sign up for expensive year-long memberships. Simply by opening up the app on their smartphone, users have access to hundreds of gyms and yoga studios in their surrounding area. This creates a geographical atmosphere of fitness, where you can attend any gym, in a given area, rather than building on brand loyalty, that many gyms try to build.

2. Webinars

Live meetings and webinars have long been a staple of many industries, but the fitness industry has largely been left out. Peloton, a revolutionary fitness company is bringing that to an end. Peloton sells a spin bike for users to utilize at home, but that is not the innovative part. The Peloton bike features wireless internet hookups to actually bring the spin class vibe to your home. Their studio has cameras, focused on both the instructor and the class, that streams directly into your home. Peloton uses what many would consider webinars to make at-home riders feel as though they are in the class. This innovation instantly builds brand loyalty by giving riders a platform to communicate with other riders, while locking them into their brand.

3. Wearables

GPS, long a staple of truckers and commuters, is now a crucial element of racing enthusiasts. Wearable GPS has changed the fitness game by introducing safety, logging, and performance indicators, previously unheard of. First, wearable GPS apps have a safety option that allows users to set a time limit, say 5 minutes, where if they are not moving, an emergency contact is alerted. Wearable GPS watches also feature workout logs, that allow you to compare your most recent workout to workouts in the past, and track your progress over time. Finally, these new wearable GPS products can also track your heart beat. This is optimal for many racing enthusiasts, as they can track their current performance, or compare to past workouts. Wearable GPS companies such as FitBit and Garmin had to adapt to brand loyalty to make sure they’re products were adaptable to iPhone and Android users alike. It is important to remember, an innovation will only be as useful as those willing to adopt it, and if those users rely on another company to deliver your innovation, you must make it compatible.

In conclusion, constant innovation is mandatory for every industry, but what those innovations are impact how your brand will cope. Disruptive innovations such as ClassPass show us that innovations can take the value out of a single brand, and distribute it across a geographical area. Peloton shows us how an innovation can take people across the world, and bring them together, to create a brand loyal following on the same platform. Lastly, wearable GPS takes an innovation designed for other industries entirely and applies it to the fitness industry. Because it relies on other brands, being compatible is the key to their success.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Ross Wakeman, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

Do you Know the 10 Aspects that Influence Innovation?

innovation competencyIn today’s extraordinarily fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to be as competitive as possible. It is much easier to be competitive by preparing your employees and the corporate culture in general for the unique challenges and benefits of innovation, and pursing with vigor potential areas for growth every day.

This 10-question survey tests an organization’s innovation competency against 10 qualities. These 10 aspects tend to fall into two big categories: organizational culture and ease of participation.

Organizational culture is essential to creating an environment for successful innovation initiatives. After all, if you haven’t set the stage organizationally, how can you expect your employees to feel supported and interested in participating? Some of the aspects that influence innovation that fall into this category are whether the leadership inspires the employees, and whether cross-boundary collaboration is encouraged and new ideas are adopted quickly.

As we’ve found with Innovation Management Award winners, by making things as easy as possible for your innovators, you are increasing the likelihood that they will actually BE your innovators. Some of the aspects that influence innovation that fall into this category are whether employees have a platform for sharing ideas and receiving feedback, and whether those employees feel supported (both by the leadership and with funding) to try new ideas.

At the end of the survey, after you have entered your responses, you will be provided with areas in which your organization is doing well. You will also be provided with expanded information on areas for improvement. Perhaps your organization could be better about making it easy for employees to participate in innovation. Perhaps you could be better at distributing pertinent market information company-wide so that employees are well aware of the industry happenings. Or perhaps you can include innovation benchmark goals as part of the metrics for management reviews.

You can take the aforementioned introductory 10-question survey, of course. However, this is just the beginning step that you can take on the road to setting yourself up for success. Click here to find out more about evaluating company-wide innovation fitness, to ensure your organization is in the best shape to make real progress.

7 Ways to Keep Innovation Strong Over the Holidays

7 Ways to Keep Innovation Strong Over the HolidaysThe holidays are often a time when organizations slow down, employees take a vacation or mentally check out, and innovation declines. Often times, the focus shifts to what will be done in the new year, and as a result, an entire month of productivity can be lost.

If you want to keep innovation strong in your organization over the holidays, you need a plan backed by easy to execute tactics. Here are seven ways to do it.

Manage the Vacation Schedule

The first step to keeping innovation strong over the holidays is a commitment from management not to put off new ideas until the new year. Manage the vacation schedule carefully so that all of your best staff members aren’t gone at the same time. Make sure that key innovation teams have people in the office all month, so ideas don’t dry up. However, do use the holiday season vacation schedule to allow your team to recharge and refocus.

Communicate the Plan

It can be easy to lose communication with stakeholders during the holiday season. Each part of your company is managing their holiday leave and plans, and it’s easy to forget to communicate until January. To keep innovation strong, communicate with stakeholders about what project plans you have during the holidays, who will be in the office, and who to reach out to if there’s a question. When you communicate the plan, stakeholders will feel confident about your projects during the holiday season.

Cross-Train Employees

With a higher level of vacation leave, you may have employees covering each other’s work for a period of time. This is a great time to cross-train employees into new roles and tasks. In fact, you can use the holiday season as a time to give someone a chance in an expanded role before an official promotion. Cross-training doesn’t have to be complex. You can have employees film simple how-to videos or create checklists detailing their work so someone else can cover for them while they’re gone.

Have Employees Create Cheat Sheets

Along the same lines, the holiday season can be a great time to have employees create a “cheat sheet” of their key job functions. Even if they don’t plan on being gone for an extended period of time, having a clear checklist or description of core functions for each role can be very important. If someone has an extended illness or leaves the company suddenly, these cheat sheets can be a saving grace. If you created cheat sheets last year, have everyone review and update them.

Consider Bonuses or Gifts to Inspire Innovation

Because the holiday season can be a time where people are less focused on work and less inspired with new ideas, it can be a great time to introduce innovation bonuses or gifts. You can run contests, have a drawing, or give gifts to top innovators. This can create a buzz around innovation during a traditionally unfocused time of year.

Volunteer as a Team and Collect Feedback

During the holidays, many people are in a mood to give back. There’s no reason your organization has to miss out on that spirit. When you have teams volunteer, consider finding ways to volunteer that help your customers or clients. Not only does this build goodwill, but you can gather feedback from your customers and clients about your products and services. That’s a definite win-win for innovation.

Remember to Take Vacation Yourself

As a leader, you certainly want to take the lead and set an example of hard work during the holiday season. However, it’s vital for you to rest and relax as well. No one can come up with great innovative ideas when they are stressed, overworked, or burned out. Don’t be afraid to take some time off. You may come up with the most incredible idea while you’re resting at home.

Innovation can stay strong during the holidays if you plan ahead. If you feel like you’re not making the progress you expect, download the Barriers to Innovation infographic to take the first step to improving innovation today.


Innovation Strategy: The Power of Design Thinking

Design thinking is key to innovation strategy.

For a long time, design was what happened after somebody else had the ideas. Designers just created the wrapping paper around the actual concept. But as innovation strategy has shifted, a new idea has come to the fore, where designers are intimately involved in the process of creation, not just the presentation of it.

Design And The Innovation Process

To some degree, design thinking is as much a matter of practicality as anything else. While ideas are the beginning of innovation, design is often how they’re teased out of the thoughts of your team and shaped into tangible things. It makes sense designers would have some innovations of their own during their process.

It also helps foreground practical applications and potential unforeseen issues. The best example of this is Apple’s celebrity designer Jonathan Ive. Ive first discovered Apple because Apple’s computers made sense to him in a way others didn’t. Ive understood the company’s products so well, he was second only to Steve Jobs and even designs Apple’s internal systems.

But design thinking is for more than just consumer products. The design firm IDEO was tasked by Kaiser Permanente to redesign how nurses went on and off shift at several of the company’s hospitals. The design team was on the ground in the hospital, speaking to staff and observing how they actually went off-shift or got up to speed at work. They designed their software to genuinely reflect how the staff operated, instead of some abstract of how they were supposed to operate.

So, how do you incorporate design thinking in your innovation strategy? It all starts with the designers themselves and your goals.

Using Design Thinking

Start with a design focus for better products.

The first step in using design thinking is to sit down with your designers and gather their ideas. Depending on your process, your designers might already work fairly closely with the rest of your team, but they likely have idle observations or ideas they haven’t shared, and you should encourage them to share their thoughts.

The next step is to bring the design team in as early as possible so they can help brainstorm ideas and look more closely at concepts. Again, with smaller companies, you’re likely doing this already, but the more closely your entire team works together, the better.

As an ongoing process, as well, you should have other departments regularly meet with your design team so they can discuss design and how they approach their work. Just like ideas can feel opaque and difficult to grasp until you see them in action, the thought process of designers can be a struggle for some who focus on what’s “under the hood,” instead of how customers and users approach it.

Finally, make sure the design team is present when their ideas are being tested. Design thinking is just as useful for iterating ideas and refining concepts as it is for discovering whole new ones.

Unlocking the power of design in your innovation strategy is a tactic that pays substantial dividends. It won’t just lead to better products, but a better focus on both the technical achievements and making them usable for any customer. To get started with optimizing your innovation strategy, join our newsletter.