Continuous Tangibility is Thought-Provoking and a Context-Insensitive Innovation Approach


Almost every successful product designer you are talking with knows that translating complexity into something simple is one of the most compelling but also promising challenges. So how to bring these conflicting parties of strategic and pragmatic thinking together? Human-to-Machine Interaction Designers have found sound ways to cope with that dilemma situation. This article will actually show where this dilemma situation must not be resolved.

The effects of how you personally engage with thinking approaches and innovative mindsets may be underestimated and may heavily influence your own perception of unique opportunities in your own distinctive context. Moreover, overly stressing the need to be part of a promising trend linguistically, could harm not only your reputation but may even eliminate the positive impact to zero for your business. The introduced thinking model aims to explain negative effects and positive opportunities.

Understanding the danger of moving into the linguistic comfort zone

Let’s take a deeper look at how sophisticated terms and trends arise on a high abstract level: At first, people make valuable experiences and gain memorable insights. These insights are distilled into approaches that mean solutions for the observed problems. Now, insights create something very precious I‘d like to call „turning points in thinking“. Phenomena are not longer viewed the same as before, thanks to approaches or patterns to get them done or reproduced. This is what’s normally referred to as the innovation process.

There’s nothing wrong about abstracting such issues with sophisticated terms. The problem is that the term for itself reveals neither the observed phenomena nor the drawn conclusions. At best, it may serve as a good reminder of what’s behind.

Let’s take a look at „disruptive innovation“, a term shaped by Clayton Christensen. Reading that you may assume that everything which feels shakingly amazing, has to be „disruptive“. We all know this definition is nonsense.

Another example would be „agile“. Some business forethinkers observed that in our complex environment, there has to be another approach to getting things done instead of planning every detail before anything is done yet. That’s time-consuming, team-demotivating and simply not reliable in terms of success. So they came up with iterative development circles. But that was just one improvement. Sometimes when being in talks about agile, I get the impression that there is the equation agile = doing things iteratively. It’s just a single drop in a bottle of agile best practices. What about stressing team dynamics over single championships? „Disruptive“ and „agile“ are just two examples of progress in solving modern business problems.

The point is: The terms themselves don’t cause turning points in your thinking. It may give you a good hint, but not the precious insight. But what could be harmful is that it may give you a false sense of security and comfort. Then you would have missed the opportunity to transform the underlying principles into your individual context.

Continuous Tangibility Stretches Your Thinking and is a Precursor for Innovation

One key is to fight the tendency of staying on the surface out of a lack of time. Dive deeper whenever it is possible. Ask yourself: ‘What are the key insights of this? How would I describe it in everyday language? How was he or she be able to come up with this? What reasons and thoughts led him or her to a turning point in their thinking?’

These questions will stimulate your memory and the effect could be technically compared to starting a carefully defined AI-algorithm to run over your individual data.

It will energize your thinking and will make it easier for you to see if there are any opportunities to apply it in your own environment. Continually asking yourself such questions will also prevent you from making wrong assumptions about yourself. Why so? Sophisticated superficiality may cause the conclusion that all these breakthrough insights are nothing new and it is enough to be able to small-talk about it, but there is no need to make a shift in your business – deceptive waters.

Thus, it should be considered as a worthy process to understand the underestimated positive outcome and power of dismantling insights, whose „sophisticatedness“ or high abstractness could feel at first deterrent for our brain.

Introducing the ‚Psychodynamics‘ of Innovation

Dismantling means translating it as tangible as possible for you so that underlying principles are able to mentally react with your own individual business context. This is the very start of what I call the psychodynamics of innovation.

Therefore, making things concrete and tangible will empower your brain to process the principles and structural elements into your context. Tangibleness is the key for spontaneous hunches evolving naturally. Making things tangible for the brain is the same what’s digesting food for your body: Your brain will be able to break up the insights and distribute them over your own experiences because you prepared them in a manner or a language your brain is used to speak and understand.

If not, your decisions are endangered to be highly copyable.

Well, shifts in thinking should all be part of our continuous learning. We all have to fight the tendency to stay on the surface without thinking things through.

The lesson in one sentence would be:

Protect yourself from the linguistic comfort zone in striving for business excellence, as innovation naturally flows in by arduous soberness.