Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Design Thinking - not the panacea for innovation?

'What should I title this post?' That is how I used to start writing blog posts. 
Of course if I were to apply design thinking to this problem, the question should be 'what would the reader want to do having read about this topic?' The title would be the last thing, not the first. Since completing a Stanford MOOC on Design Thinking, I've been impressed with the approach. The process is sometimes summarized as: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. 
If you are not familiar with Design Thinking, this description from Digital Tonto, will give you a good idea.

'What makes design thinking so effective is its relentless focus on the needs of the end user. Instead of starting with a set of features, it begins by asking what the final experience should be and then works to define a solution. Designers develop products through a series of prototypes and continuously improve and refine them through testing.
So, for example, instead of developing a mobile phone by asking, “what should the keypad look like? A design thinking engineer would start by asking “What does the user want to do with the phone?” In a similar way, a design thinker wouldn’t start designing a doctor’s office by asking where the waiting room should go, but by asking, “what is the purpose of the waiting room?”
As Apple has demonstrated, design thinking can be tremendously helpful when you’re working with mature technologies that are well understood. Unfortunately, they’re not much help when you’re venturing into the unknown to, say, find a new cure for cancer or develop a new approach to artificial intelligence, which may be why Apple has gotten bogged down lately'.

This extract is from Greg Satell's article 'Here's Why Your Innovation Strategy Will Fail'. 
Satell suggests, illustrated with case studies, that a wider variety of 'paths' to innovation are needed. However, many organisations have a single approach, perhaps vested in Research and Development. 
Unsurprisingly, Apple features strongly in the article. It's interesting to consider how Apple set out to disrupt existing technologies and service providers, before considering what product innovations might serve that purpose. As we all know, the iPod, iPhone and iPad resulted. Great examples of design thinking. The big question for Apple is that it's 10 years since their last truly groundbreaking product innovation. It's highly likely that their autonomous vehicle, by the time it's available, won't be the only player and they may already be playing catch-up.
This revealing article on The Verge uses the history of the iPhone development as a lesson in how this disruption was planned by Apple. What innovation path are they using to maintain their preeminence?

Post Script: Another path to innovation I was reminded of is Systems Thinking; an extension of Design Thinking that attempts to take account of the increasingly interconnected and complex world. See https://www.fastcodesign.com/90112320/design-thinking-needs-to-think-bigger


Source: Mapping Innovation by Greg Satchell









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