On Innovation: Design Thinking



Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

~ Tim Brown, President and CEO, IDEO

I am a big fan of IDEO, a global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping companies in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.  Their founders, David and Tom Kelley, along with their current CEO, Tim Brown, have written quite a few world-renowned books on design and innovation. We at Alytis are inspired and influenced by their approach and work to design our solutions with the same mindset.

According to IDEO’s company explanation on their website, “thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.

Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way.

The design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. There are three spaces to keep in mind: inspirationideation, and implementation.  Inspiration is the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions.  Ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas. Implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.

Under this system, IDEO uses both analytical tools and generative techniques to help clients see how their new or existing operations could look in the future — and build road maps for getting there. [Its] methods include business model prototyping, data visualization, innovation strategy, organizational design, qualitative and quantitative research, and IP liberation.

All of IDEO’s work is done in consideration of the capabilities of [its] clients and the needs of their customers. As [they] iterate toward a final solution, [they] assess and reassess [their] designs. [IDEO’s] goal is to deliver appropriate, actionable, and tangible strategies. The result: new, innovative avenues for growth that are grounded in business viability and market desirability.” (See original transcript of this description of Design Thinking from IDEO here.)

I chose to include the entire transcript as I don’t think I could have said it any better.  IDEO is an example of a company that has achieved greatness in design and generated consistent innovation.  As you innovate in your own company and strive toward greatness, I encourage you to implement “design thinking” into your efforts.  For more information and frameworks on how to do this, I recommend you check out some of the IDEO methodology here.

Choose to think in terms of design to solve problems.  Choose to do human-centered design and not linear design.

Choose greatness.





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